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AGGIORNAMENTO

Sunday
Dec072014

Advent, Day 7 - Counter cultural or frenzied? 

Second Sunday of Advent 
Photo by Dusty Rayburn
Are we here to change the status quo and make a difference as a countersign of the current culture? Or do we just fit in to the frenzy? The following text Johannes Baptist Metz will take a bit of time and patience on your part to muse and consider. The image by Dusty Rayburn offers additonal perspective. Will you take the time to read it or will you be too busy, too frenzied, too driven by the secular season to take a few minutes to slow down and be quiet? 
"One of the distinctive features of this modern anxiety is that its victims can never know nightfall. Their whole lives are spent in the glare of lights, and what bright and blinding lights they are! These lights are, as it were, the wayward eyes of our own anxiety, which instinctively try to shield themselves against God's breakthrough. But they can glimpse God's coming against the backdrop of darkness, and therefore they never know rest.
"The anxiety-ridden cannot enjoy peace and quiet either. Their words and actions go on amid the din of unceasing noise. Their songs and pleasures are loud and slapdash, as if they were afraid to catch God's alien note in the chorus. They meticulously drown out silence with incessant talk and noisy chatter, so that they can stay at peace with themselves. It is as if stillness were a threatening cloud from which God might emerge to rend their hearts.
"Patience is another quality that the anxiety-ridden cannot display. They cannot patiently cultivate those realities that require slow development and silent blossoming: love and fidelity, mutual understanding and friendship, marriage and family life. That is why these realities are in crisis today to a greater or lesser extent, riddled with an anxiety that cannot stand the slow pace of deliberate, tender care.
"Finally, the anxiety-ridden cannot enjoy any peace. From time to time it happens that this anxiety no longer feels able to put up with itself. It seeks to neutralize our imagined alienation in God's advent by arrogantly precipitating our annihilation on its own. It stirs up strife and destruction, it foments war and revolution. The continuing brinkmanship of our age, the powder keg on which we sit, is not a political problem in the last analysis. It is really a religious problem, an outgrowth of our contemporary neurosis and our flight from God's inescapable coming.
"The anxiety-ridden secretly hope that their self-instigated destruction will ease the pressure that weighs down upon them. But even our self-wrought destruction passes away, and the anxiety remains. Its mournful cry can be heard amid the debris. It remains because we ourselves remain, because God's advent remains, and because the former cannot fight off the latter. "
--Johannes Baptist Metz 

 

Saturday
Nov012014

Something to feast about 

 

In 1985, I turned on a local PBS television station one evening while I was nursing my first baby and my husband was doing an evening shift as a hospital pharmacist. A documentary about a nun from Calcutta was just beginning and so, with my little son nestling and eating, I began to watch the film about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Fr. Jim Tobin whom I knew from my Sunday evening parish Mass gig on Cape Cod had worked with her in India and had a few good stories about her and her troupe of nuns but beyond that, I really didn't know much. 

When the credits rolled at the end of the film, I realized that I knew the creator of the documentary. Fr. William Petrie, a Sacred Heart father had also worked with Mother Teresa in India. Fr. Bill and his sisters, Jeanette and Ann Petrie, the latter a former Emmy award winning writer/producer took five years to film the documentary on Mother Teresa. We really are many parts and all connected to one another. 

We had begun to hear of Mother Teresa and her work a bit in the news but after I saw the documentary, I was hooked on her. She was so unpretentious. Whether she was talking to a person with no clothes in a gutter or giving a speech at the United Nations, she was just herself. When our bishop, Sean O'Malley invited Mother Teresa's congregation, the Missionaries of Charity to open a house in New Bedford in 1995, Mother Teresa showed up to see her sisters and meet the people in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. By that time, another friend (yes, MB, that would be you) had roped me into doing some work for the sisters and the superior of the house gave me a 'ticket' to reserve a seat in the church across the street that would host a Mass and reception for this now Nobel Prize winning celebrity. I gave my reserved ticket away and read about the event in the local newspaper. People were swarming for a glimpse of Mother Teresa - where were they when you needed them to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work? I didn't feel as though I needed to see this world class figure in person. I felt that I already knew her. We were doing God's work in our own ways. 

I continued for awhile to be involved in Mother Teresa's new apostalate as much as time allowed. Now we had three children who I dragged during some really beautiful summer weather on many an 'excursion' to get some of that work done. I honestly don't remember my children complaining about being schleped along through some pretty interesting experiences. There was one exception: the day that I invited over 40 children under the age of 12 who the sisters were working with that summer to our home for a 'fun' day of some pool time with some good food and room to run around in a place where there actually trees and out of the heart and heat of the tenements and housing developments where these children lived, some in extreme poverty with little or no behavior modification. It's one thing to go to work as an educator, social worker, health care provider, minister and anyone who works with the public and experience the dire circumstances of people you serve, but when you take another step and invite them into your home and have them turn it topsy turvey --- well, I think that my own three kids buried my halo in a hole under the pine trees that day. We had to literally put Humpty Dumpty back together again. We have a good chuckle over some of their sad sack faces in some of the pictures I took that day, a memorable one.   

We're never alone

At the time, I was a pastoral musician in a sizable parish with a music department of approximately 200 volunteers that included four choirs, two instrumental ensembles, a fleet of cantors, a librarian (bless you, Leanne) and the usual staff meetings, councils, diocesan events, rehearsals, etc. that accompany this position. Simultaneously, I was teaching Pre-K - 9 music in the school that my children attended and retained my evening Mass on the Cape, and yes, I did bring my kids quite often but we did find a way to have fun quite often during those excursions.) By this time, there wasn't much time for volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity but did go whenever they called and learned that I had to say 'no' when I just couldn't meet their needs because of time restraints and priorities. (Try to say 'no' to a Missionary of Charity; they don't hear that word well.) 

By this time, the sisters were involved in several apostolates. One of them was the House of Correction in our region. In November, the sisters happened to worship in the parish where I served. The superior of the house approached me after Mass and asked if I would go with them on Christmas Eve to provide music for the inmates. "You're not doing anything on Christmas Eve," she said. Several people who were standing with us gasped. I attempted to explain how things worked in parish life. 

"Sister, I don't think that you understand just how busy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be in a parish," I explained. "I leave my home and my family at 11:00am to set up everything up. People begin to arrive at 2:00 pm for a 4:00 pm vigil liturgy. The bishop's diocesan television Mass is taped in this parish at 4:00pm. There's a concert before Mass with choir and orchestra. Then we get ready for the 6:00 pm Mass, again a full church. I run home around 8:00 pm to kiss my children and husband and come back to set up again at 10:00 pm for the concert at 11:00 pm before Midnight Mass, again with full choir and orchestra with a full church. There are three liturgies tomorrow morning. When would you like me to go to the prison?" I really thought she'd back off. 

"Well then, find another time to go. It's your duty." And she wasn't kidding. 

A few days of fuming (and praying) turned me around. She was right: visiting the imprisoned is a directive from Jesus. How would I do this? Who could help me? Saints anywhere, in heaven and on earth, is anyone listening? Show me the way. You doers and givers and holy ones of God who preceded me --- help! 

The inner voice. "Just do it."

I contacted a friend who worked for the Sheriff's office as an administrator. A strong Catholic who just 'got it,' Bob invited me to bring the adult choir and ensemble to the prison to provide music for Bishop O'Malley's liturgy, which he initiated for the House of Correction. I began to sweat a bit when I realized that I had commmitted my musicians to provide music for inmates without talking to them first. When I raised the issue, some were afraid, others negative and still others intrigued. But in the end, everyone agreed that we should go. By the end of the experience, the entire choir and ensemble wanted to know if we could return the following year, they were so moved. And we did, for a many years after that first time. The experience was mutually profound for both inmates and choir members. The reminder of my Christian duty opened up a shining new moment of grace, linking saint to saint, sinner to sinner. "Who are we to judge?" Pope Francis reminds us. Indeed. 

Something to feast about 

In my mind, today's feast of All Saints refers to not only the great and the good who have been canonized but reminds us that we all have a duty to be saints, to love God here and now, create God's reign here and now before we're received into heaven. That's something to feast about.

In Fr. Petrie's documentary on Mother Teresa, she's asked, "Some people have called you a saint. Do you think you're a saint?" She doesn't hesitate for a moment. "Well yes, of course, that's the call of the Christian, do be holy, to be a saint, to be who God has and called you to be." Go, MT. In plain English, be yourself. Or, as Elizabeth Gilbert well writes, "God lives in me - as me." 

Happy Feast of All Saints. May they continue to prompt us, guide us and accompany us as we weave our way through this life to the next. 

For All the Saints Who've Shown Your Love by John L. Bell 

For all the saints who've shown your love

in how they live and where they move, 

for mindful women, caring men,

accept our gratitude again. 

 

For all the saints who've loved your name, 

whose faith increased the Savior's fame, 

who sang your songs and shared your word,

accept our gratitude, Good Lord. 

 

For all the saitns who named your will

and show the kingdom coming still

through selfless prtest, prayer and praise,

accept the gratitude we raise. 

 

Bless all whose will or name or love

reflects the grace of heaven above.

Though unaccliamed by earthly powers,

your life through theirs has hallowed ours. 

 

 

 

Saturday
Oct182014

This I Believe by Elizabeth Orr

Foreword by Denise Morency Gannon

I met Elizabeth Orr when I was a campus minister at Stonehill College and she was a first year student. I found her to be extremely bright, extremely personable, friendly and completely unique. Liz found herself visiting Campus Ministry frequently, full of questions, wise answers and always listened with an intentional ear.

Ultimately, Liz combined her undergraduate studies in history with her draw toward pastoral ministry with a specific interest in social justice. During her undergraduate years, Liz served as a student ministry and team leader, participated in service trips and retreats, sacramental worship and worked as my summer intern when I directed student ministry (how lucky can you get!). As her undergraduate studies came to a close, Liz made some powerful decisions that impacted her own life as well as the people whom she served that you'll read in her blog post.

While doing post-graduate service work, Liz earned her Master's degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry. She now serves as the Director of Catholic Programming at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.   

I'm extremely proud to introduce Elizabeth Orr as the Roncalli Center's first guest blogger on the eve of the beatification of Pope Paul VI, whose famous quote, "If you want peace, work for justice," shines through Elizabeth Orr's compelling personal account and her work on behalf of the people of God in the world. Truth telling takes courage. Read Liz's post. Comments to the blog are welcome.   

This I Believe by Elizabeth Orr  

I believe in the everyday practice of non-violence.  I believe in practicing non-violence to gain peace through acts of justice, in the extraordinary moments in life and in the ordinary moments in life, in the external world and in our internal selves.  That belief in non-violence led me to some incredible places throughout my life.  It led me down to Fort Benning, GA, where I would join thousands of others protesting American training of Latin-American militaries.  It led me to an all-men soup kitchen in Boston, where I worked for free in exchange for housing, and developed friendships with men with addiction and criminal records.  It led me to offering workshops and spiritual direction for women in prison.  And it led me to the position of Behavioral Counselor at a residential treatment program for adolescent girls with emotional and behavioral issues.  And in a moment and an experience in which my belief in non-violence was challenged, I came to realize that it is the everyday, ordinary, and internal practices of non-violence that are the most difficult to engage in.

About a month into my tenure at this residential treatment program, that belief in non-violence was challenged with a fist to my face.  One of my girls, in the depths of a crisis, punched me squarely in my right eye, and fractured my eye-socket.  I heard the crack of my orbital floor, I immediately saw double vision, and I had a choice: back away, or go in for a restraint. 

I chose to back away and instead, insured that the rest of the girls in the house were safely upstairs while my assailant de-escalated.  Later at the hospital that night, the doctors told me I had a fractured eye socket and may need surgery. I could not help but laugh at the irony of the fact that just a year prior to that night, I had spent so much time unpacking the biblical directive “an eye for an eye” in my master’s thesis project, and here I was, a victim of someone’s violence, with a very injured eye.  Well, looks like I passed my own test, I told myself: I didn’t hit her back!

As these types of incidents tend to do, the situation grew more and more complicated as time went on.  As I began the recovery process, my employers put a lot of pressure on me to return to work well before my eye was healed.  My doctors recommended I remain out of work for three weeks. My employers disregarded the medical advice and insisted that I return half a week after the injury for “administrative” work. 

Frustrated at the way I had been treated and losing faith that my employers would take reasonable measures to ensure my safety, I gave my two weeks-notice and resigned without another job lined up.  Thus began three months of an exhausting job search, a diminishing bank account, and ultimately, financial assistance from my parents – basically, living out the exact nightmare of every twenty-something college graduate. 

But far beyond that, I found myself becoming internally bitter at my employers. I was so angry that I had trained and worked so hard and had followed their rules and protocols. Still, when I was injured, when I was vulnerable, I had to fight an uphill battle of paperwork and insurance company phone tag just to get basic benefits like workers compensation.  Doctors notes were lost and then disregarded; phone calls and emails to human resources were unreturned.  And so I left my job feeling defeated and powerless against this organization, back to the fruitless and frustrating job search that seemed even more daunting, considering that I had only lasted two months at my last place of employment.

I was so furious and frustrated that not a week went by that I didn’t break down in bitter tears in the middle of writing a cover letter.  All the anger I had for my employer and all the exhaustion from my job search in addition to the shame that I felt at being unemployed were brewing and swirling into a harsh gird that I could taste in everything I did. 

And it hit me (not unlike that punch to my eye), that all of these boiling emotions that keep coming up were violence.  The emotions that were weighing me down each day were just as damaging and traumatic as the blow that fractured my eye socket.  And I needed to let them go.  I needed to let go of the violent emotions I felt for my employers and my assailant if I was ever going to keep finding the strength to write another cover letter, fill out another job application and believe that another interview might make way to fruitful employment.  I needed to let go of them if I was ever going to stop thinking of myself as a victim and get past that assault. 

That said, I say with just gratitude that many of the people with whom I worked with on a day-to-day basis at the residential program were wonderful, supportive, and caring. Colleagues, co-counselors and my immediate supervisors supported me not only in words but in actions. They covered my shifts and shielded me from some of the pressure being put on them to bring me back to work. To eliminate the compassionate fidelity on my behalf of these co-workers with those who neglected to ensure safety would in itself be an injustice and in itself an immoral act. Leaving the colleagues who acted on my behalf understaffed made the decision to resign even more difficult because of the depth of my respect and admiration for them and the difficult work that they continue to do on a daily basis. I did not want to let them down. However, as the administration of the program put more and more pressure on me and neglected explicit instructions from my physicians with regard to my injury, I lost confidence in leadership’s ability to support me in my work, in my personhood and in my belief in non-violence. The act of abandonment by leadership felt treacherous. This is how wars begin, with malice, lack of communication and fear of losing what is most precious within relationships – the ability to trust others. This is the birth of violence in any form.

That realization of my own internal violence was the beginning, and I wish I could say it all clicked into place from there.  It did not.  There were still moments where I was angry; there were still calls from insurance companies that left me frustrated months after my last shift at the residential program.  More than choosing not to hit my assailant back, I had to really commit to letting go of those violent emotions towards my previous employer.  Slowly, that hard, bitter internal violence turned into a new learning experience about my boundaries and about advocating for myself.  Slowly, as those lessons continued to turn over and unearth new insights, I could see that it was not that night - that punch - that form of violence that really challenged me.  The true challenge of non-violence was in the rejection of violent bitterness and anger, and in learning to practice peace and patience in a process in which I did not possess control. 

While I believe in and encourage wholeheartedly everyone to practice non-violence when confronted in dramatic and extraordinary moments in life, I also believe that we must all reflect on the burden of internal violence we carry with us every day.  Anger, resentment, shame, and frustration – all of these are boiling, burning emotions that embitter our relationships and interactions. But they are also invitations.  They are invitations to healing and reconciliation.  They are invitations into the everyday practice of non-violence and as important as any sit-in, march, bus boycott or crucifixion. From an eye-to-an-eye philosophy to Gospel mercy, they are invitations to practice peace to work for justice and to bring to birth the Gospel message of reconciliation for the creation of a non-violent world. 

This I believe. 

"The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well." (Gaudium et Spes, #1.) 

Saturday
Oct112014

Change is tough by Denise Morency Gannon

 

"The moment has come to acknowledge the signs of the times, to capture the opportunities and look afar." St. Pope John XXIII 

Today is the first feast day of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Pope John XXIII. His feast day was chosen on October 11 to commemorate the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962. St. Pope John XXIII was canonized on April 27, 2014. The Roncalli Center considers him our patron saint. 

Pope John XXIII recognized a church whose windows needed to be opened wide after hundreds of years of remaining closed to change, allowing a breath of fresh air that allows the Spirit of God to break into our hearts as well as into our minds.

Change is tough. Contrary to what you might think if you didn't live through the Second Vatican Council, many of the liturgical changes were not immediately and fully embraced by Catholic Christians. I can recount a time in one parish where a pastor was made to retire after 30 years. He had to be told to turn the altar around to face the people several times by his bishop. After refusing to do so, he was 'retired' and replaced by an incoming pastor who embraced Vatican II and hired me to work with him and the new DRE to start from the bottom up with the pastoral work of the parish.

Among the many stories of the angst and drama as a result of being part of the 'enemy' of change, I think the one that stays with me the most is finding that my car had four slashed tires and a broken windshield with a note on the windshield wiper,  "Go home. We don't want you here," after a late night choir rehearsal. (Women were banned from the adult choir until I arrived. Half of the twenty-year member all male choir quit when I opened up the adult choir to women.)

In another church, I moved a piano into the music area next to the organ. A few weeks passed. As I was walking up through the church, a woman was saying her rosary. "Say one for me," I smiled, just by way of saying hello and being what I thought was, you know, friendly. "You certainly do," she retorted, turning her head away. "We don't need nightclub singers in our church." (Sigh) Just a tip of the iceberg of stories when change enters the picture. 

Change is tough. The people who introduce change suffer. And no one experienced that or sufferred more through changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council than the man who launched the changes, St. Pope John XXIII. Make no mistake: Pope John did not suffer through the changes alone. Many of the concilliar authors were theologians and academics who were light years ahead of their time in their way of thinking with regard to liturgy, sacraments and ecuminism. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, some of them saw their writings banned because they were considered contradictory to doctrinal teaching. History does repeat itself quite often; some of the finest post-modern day theologians are experiencing similar events. 

The word aggiornamento (bringing up to date) became a kind of buzz word for the Second Vatican Council, which began with Pope John's magnificent and optimistic address Gaudet, Mater Ecclesia and the words "Rejoice, Mother Church!". In his opening address to the Council (you can read more about that event on the front page of this website and see some actual footage of the opening of the Council), Pope John XXIII urged the participants to consider listening to the voices of the past as they informed the present and the future.

One of the highlights of Pope John's opening address continues to echo in this time and place. particularly as the Synod of Bishops continues to meet to address the hot bed issues of post-modern Catholic church.   

"In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty.

We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world was at hand."

Since 1962 and even prior to the Second Vatican Council, a polarized church has developed voices to the right, center and the left. Thanks to the wild world web and globilization, we can read, hear, discuss, write and give voice to our opinions. But has anything changed? For all of our reading, hearing, discussing, writing and offering our opinions, who's listening? Are we preaching to the proverbial choir? Where have we affected change?

As the Synod of Bishops continues to meet and converse, listen, pray and discern surrounding topics such as LBGT, divorced and remarried Catholics and the very definition of marriage, where will the outcome of these conversations lead? As the people of God, we've been asked to weigh in on these issues; we've come a long way from a do-as-I-say approach, thanks to current leadership. We've been asked not only to weigh in with our opinions, but to act on them as well. How do we preach, pray, sing from our places of worship? As we're blessed and sent from worship, how will people know we are Christians by our love? Or will they know us as prophets and voices of doom and gloom? "Without some holy madness, the church cannot grow," Pope John once said. Suffice to say that Jesus was hung from a tree for such a holy madness. Are we willing to go out on just a bit of the limbof that tree and go a bit mad for the sake of the Gospel? How far will we go to create change? To do that, you have to give the biggest part of yourself away - your heart. What is yours telling you? And how much courage will your heart need to step up, out and forward on behalf of that Gospel? Change is touch. 

In 2013, Pope Francis I echoed Pope John's words in a homily delivered to Brazilian bishops for Inter-religious dialogue: "Perhaps the church appears too distant from people's needs, too cold. Perhaps too caught up with itself, a prisoner of its own rigid formulas. Perhaps the world has made the church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions." 

As the Synod of Bishops continues to meet, discuss, listen and discern where the Spirit of God is leading the Church, are we acknowledging the times, capturing opportunities and looking afar with new vision as we pray for open-minded pastoral leadership? May merciful outcomes to these conversations and decisions give so many people a reason to shout to the heavens, Rejoice Mother Church! May it be so.

When Pope John knew that his life would end before the end of the Second Vatican Council, he said, "I have launched this great ship. Others will have to bring it into port." Acknowledge this time in our world so that the message of the Gospel may be seen, heard, experienced by and through the people who profess their faith in the living God. Capture the hundreds of millions of opportunities at our disposal as Christ reveals himself again and again and again in the faces and places of everything around us. Look afar with vision at what we want the world to be, not only in the future, but here, now, in this time and place. Where is the Gospel living and breathing right in front of you? 

Change is tough. Pray for us, St. Pope John XXIII. Feast day blessings. 

 

 

Thursday
Oct022014

Coincidences or God incidences? 

I rolled the car window down, despite the drizzle of rain that pecked at the left side of my face. Let the germs out of the car and get some fresh air, I thought. Throughout the day and evening, scores of walk-in patients had arrived in the emergency department with a battalion of viral infections in addition to the stream of ambulances that delivered the critically ill, behavioral health patients and the myriad of clients seeking medical, social and pastoral attention. Reality television shows that attempt to portray what happens in an urban emergency room is equivalent to a small appetizer before a banquet. 

My back hurt and my torn meniscus was killing me after being on my feet for seven hours with no break. I reveled in my little car's cushioned seat and the silence that my vehicle provided. Hospitals are notorious for sound. Even just the beeping of monitors can drive you a little mad, never mind that human noise that even surround sound cannot emulate.

I kept the window down as I headed downtown to meet my husband for a quick bite before we headed home after the end of a long day. We know we're very fortunate; we have a wonderful marriage and family and friends. There's not a day that goes by that we don't give thanks for those precious gifts. 

My car window was still open when I came to a stop sign at the corner of the hospital's main street and a city throughway. I saw her approach from my left, a young woman, maybe in her mid 'twenties. She was holding a giant carryall bag in each hand. She spotted me and walked quickly to my open window. 

"I was just kicked out of the women's shelter. I need to catch a bus to Boston and if I walk, I'll miss it. The bus leaves at 7:00 pm. Can you give me a lift?" 

"Hop in." I said the words like I would say "Cream with one sweetener," to a drive through coffee shop. Perhaps it was my own fatigue, my own body aches - whatever. I felt calm, as though this was the most natural occurrence in the world. Perhaps work in pastoral ministry of any kind does that to people - you lose yourself in the moment and really don't consider you're own safety. Your attention is always on the other.

She ran to the passenger side, piled her two huge bags loaded with probably everything she owned in the world and plopped her body down hard in the seat. She was wearing flip flops and a loose shirt in wet, chilly weather. She had left in a big hurry.

I veered the car left toward the bus station and continued toward destination downtown. 

"I'm Denise."

"I'm L----. Thanks. I've got to stop at a bank and use the ATM. Could you drop me off at the corner at my bank so I can make a withdrawal? The bus terminal is right down the street; I can make it to the station from the bank." 

"No problem. Just tell me where to stop the car." 

Silence. Not uncomfortable. Just silence. 

"What happened at the shelter?" I asked. There was no judgement in my voice. I'm used to asking questions like that one without any hidden agenda. Stuff happens; I just listen. 

"I broke a rule and talked to someone I shouldn't have talked to and was honest about it. That's what honesty will get you. Kicked out." She might have said, "I bought jelly beans." There was no emotion whatsoever in her voice. She did it, she admitted it and now she was on the run, probably for her own safety and the safety of the women in the shelter.  

Silence. The event was beginning to find its way into the back of my eyes. 

"Anything I can do?" 

"You can drop me off right at that corner," and she pointed to the destination bank. The bus terminal was about a block away. I pointed to the clock on my dashboard. 

"You have time. You'll make the bus in time." The comment seemed to be the only thing positive words that I could conjure in the moment. 

I pulled the car up to the curb at her bank. She got out of the passenger side, pulled her overstuffed bags out of the car and closed the door. 

"Thanks Denise."

"God bless, L----." And she was gone. 

She is millions. Whatever the stories, they all sound similar, despite their individual circumstances. The encounter seemed so brief, less than fifteen minutes, without drama other than the extraordinary one of this young women's extreme circumstances. As brief as the surreal encounter seemed, she will remain with me. I'll see L---- again, but probably not in this world. I pray that she survives this one without further harm.

October 1, Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. ""You know it, O my God, to love you on earth/ I have nothing but today."

October 2, Feast of the Guardian Angels. "I believe in angels - they help us to make right decisions." Pope Francis

October 4, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. "Preach the Gospel. Use words when necessary." 

Coincidences or God-incidences, these encounters like my own with L----- and all the people I meet, tend to, care for and take home with me in my thoughts and prayers?  I don't think so. We're never alone. 

October blessings, one person at a time, one God-incident at a time. 

"Discord results from population, economic and social pressures, or from difficulties which arise between succeeding generations, or from new social relationships between men and women. What results is mutual distrust, enmities, conflicts and hardships and people the cause and victim." (Excerpts from Gaudium et Spes)

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