Betrayal

We are all guilty.  Yes, we craft sophisticated excuses and feign innocence.  We dance in self-defense.  Excuses abound.  Denial and rationalizations flurry forth.  At its most painful, nothing hurts more than betrayal in relationship.

On this Wednesday in Holy Week we presented with the figure of Judas Iscariot.  We know well his selfishness, smallness and fate.  He betrayed his friend for a bag of silver.  We do well to sit with his story, his truth, our story.

Don’t flee the poignancy of his betrayal.  But it is not his alone. Virtually all of Jesus’ friends and companions betray him, abandon him.  We are given the image of only a few women, John the Beloved Disciple and his mother who hang with Jesus to the end.

At least Judas knew his motivations and followed through with his intentions. Perhaps the more reprehensible betrayal was delivered by Peter.  Not only did he flee, he adamantly denied that he even knew the man.  Imagine the pain!

The issue is not whether or not we betray Jesus.  The issue is what we do next.  Judas despaired!  Peter ultimately professes his love.

Wednesday in Holy Week places us precisely in this “moment”, challenges us with our “truth”, presents us with our own story.  Our journey continues…

Getting What We Need

We don’t always get what we want or expect! Generally, we get what we need.

I anticipated a typical Holy Week attending Triduum liturgies at church with an eye to our family gathering Sunday afternoon. That shifted last weekend with news of yet another death in my family which refocused attention to all this week holds.

Most people know today as Tax Day. To me April 15 was always the day on which the only Grandpa I ever knew died on his 75th birthday. I was hit by a car on that same day and was not able to join the rest of the family at his funeral (actually this 5 year-old welcomed the attention and notoriety). Later a sister-in-law who shared this birthday joined the family. Today I am en route to her wake this evening and her funeral tomorrow.

It’s quite an intense week… April 12 was the birthday of another sister-in-law who, who I knew since I was 5 years-old, who died at age 62. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my Grandma Wieseler’s death – our beloved matriarch who transformed her ride on the “orphan train” at age 7 into a maternal love for an expansive family that still displays her photo in our family rooms. April 20, Easter this year, is the 21 anniversary of my Dad’s death.

Grief is in the air as I embark on a “way of the cross” I did not request or anticipate.

My friend Susan Stable offers wise counsel on her blog today [link]. She recalls Ignatius of Loyola’s invitation in his Spiritual Exercises. During Holy Week we are to be with Christ in his suffering, to extend compassion, attend to emotions evoked by a loved one en route to his death. To the extent we are willing and able we are, as Susan quotes, to follow Jesus in “his choices, his anguish, his truth, his desires, his aloneness, his sense of the absence of God.”

So I am en route, traveling. Last evening I indulged a rare opportunity to share a meal with a nephew and his great family in Sioux Falls. As the evening waned, the three kids peeled off leaving Dean and me the space to tell stories and share memories. I will be staying with a sister in Omaha – another rare opportunity holding more stories, memories.   Having gathered for Joyce’s funeral earlier in the day, I’ve made plans to attend the baseball game of a 7 year-old grand-nephew. Denny in one I don’t know well and, as a middle child, I too easily overlook.

Holy Thursday will be in my family’s hometown with a brother I have not seen since the last family funeral nearly two years ago. On Good Friday morning I will go to my parents’ grave in that town’s cemetery to say a simple prayer. Lyrics I stumbled upon last weekend echoing still, “there are things you cannot hold but the heart carries”.

I did not anticipate or ask for the events of this week. Life teaches us to trust that we are given what we need. Later, not now, I will look forward to the drive home this weekend, celebrating Easter in the familiar embrace of my church and Minnesota family.

For now I am en route – attending as best I am able to the grief, the compassion, the pain, the love, the journey, the companionship that is Holy Week.

______________________
Lyrics cited are from Amberstone by Sarah Thomsen.

Fragrance of Palms

Each year I was caught off guard, then delighted, when Mom and Dad hauled us off to church and we got something special which we could actually take home. Although we weren’t allowed to play with the palms, we were encouraged in the whimsical craft of weaving intricate braids. Scraps were transformed into miniature crosses.

Our best handiwork would adorn the crucifix which hung in our living room or atop the ornate gold frame encasing the Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon which my maternal grandparents received as a wedding gift in 1895. That crucifix and icon are two of my most precious possessions today holding places of honor in our home.

I recall being awestruck upon learning that the dusty dry palms of the previous year were burned to provide the ashes for Ash Wednesday. That was another favorite day because, like Palm Sunday, we got a “freebie” in the form of an exotic smudge on our faces. Like incense, the distinctive fragrance of palm and ash still transport me to the realm of the Holy.

Growing up with the liturgical fanfare of St. Cecilia Cathedral prepared me well for the rarefied studies at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, MA. Much time and energy were expended on the proper form of gathering a worshipping community out-of-doors for festive procession into church with palms waving overhead. We were instructed in the art of eliciting the effusive emotions appropriate for welcoming royalty. Liturgical rubrics were given full throttle with roles carefully orchestrated – much like most wedding ceremonies today.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – prepared me for the first Palm Sunday liturgy at which I presided. Freshly transplanted from the environs of Harvard Square, I found myself atop Cuny Table on the Pine Ridge Reservation in western South Dakota. A typical Sunday had me making a 100 mile loop for services at three “mission” churches – first Porcupine, then Red Shirt and finally Cuny Table. Anywhere from three to twelve people would be present for each service.

This particular Sunday I carried a bundle of moist palms along with all the usual supplies needed for Eucharist. As I had done at the two previous sites, I unlocked the church and set up for my third Mass of the morning. Someone else dutifully came the evening before to light the propane heater so our gathering space would be warm. This morning was fresh, crisp and bright. Perched near the edge of Cuny Table we were treated to breath-taking views of the Badlands that became easy to take for granted.

The white Gothic church worthy of Grant Woods stood like a sentinel amid the brown stubble pasture nearly barren from winter grazing. We stalwart eight fumbled with logistical practicalities but we made it happen! We’d begin our prayer outdoors and solemnly process just as others were doing in Cambridge, MA or Omaha’s Cathedral. These proud Lakota Catholics held strong to the faith of Red Cloud. As the one presiding, my unique obligation was protecting the palms from grazing cattle – they did yield their pasture to us one hour each week and we were in possession of the greenest plant they’d seen in nine months!

Each of the twenty years since, the sight and smell of palms transports me back to that very grace-filled moment on Cuny Table. More than esoteric discussions in Boston classrooms, the faith of these stalwart descendents of Red Cloud taught me what is important about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Phil 2:1-8)

As if perched atop Cuny Table, our Gothic churches need to hover the edges and peripheries of our winter-barren world. All creation is hungry for what people of humble faith have to offer. Our palms are not intended for some Victorian braid propped behind ancient symbols. Fresh, we wave them today in sober jubilation – aware of the sacred journey we commence.

Life As It Should Be

Scooter season has finally returned to Minneapolis! My Kymco People 150 was polished, serviced and filled with gas when I retrieved it from storage at the Scooterville dealership yesterday. (Yes, that’s really the name.) Riding home felt like one of those “Ah, life as it should be!” kind of moments.

Although a ride to Scooterville had been offered, I deliberately wanted to take the bus. Yes, I love my “bike” for the sheer enjoyment riding provides.  But a big motivation is cost savings and energy conservation. So, why use the extra fossil fuels when a bus is going in that direction anyway! Besides, every time I ride a city bus it has proven to be a very enlightening reintroduction to the city on which we live. Yesterday did not disappoint.

You may have noticed that four presidents gathered in Austin, TX this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. This towering achievement of the Johnson administration ended legal racial segregation in public places. Again, it prohibited legal segregation by race in public places. The force of law can protect certain rights and proscribe some behaviors. It cannot change human hearts.

Charles M. Blow observes a really tragic fact. “Now we are facing another, worsening kind of segregation, one not codified but cultural: We are self-sorting, not only along racial lines but also along educational and income ones, particularly in our big cities. … Our cities are increasingly becoming vast outposts of homogeneity and advantage, arching ever upward, interspersed by deserts of despair, all of which produces in them some of the highest levels of income inequality ever seen in this country.” [link]

Blow cites a report by Stanford researchers: “The proportion of families living in affluent neighborhoods more than doubled from 7 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 2009. Likewise, the proportion of families in poor neighborhoods doubled from 8 percent to 18 percent over the same period.”

According to a study published last year in the journal Education and Urban Society, “Students are more racially segregated in schools today than they were in the late 1960s and prior to the enforcement of court-ordered desegregation in school districts across the country.”

Riding the bus confirmed Blow’s contention: We need to see people other than ourselves in order to empathize. If we don’t live around others we do ourselves and our society damage because our ability to relate becomes impaired. It’s easy to demonize, or simply dismiss, people you don’t know or see. It’s in this context that we can keep having inane conversations about the “habits” and “culture” of the poor and “inner city” citizens. It’s nearly impossible to commiserate with the unseen and unknown.

Yes, I ride my scooter because it’s fun, saves me money and lessening my consumption of fossil fuels makes me feels socially responsible. Picking up my scooter yesterday taught me another lesson: I need to get off my scooter from time to time and ride the bus if I am truly to see the world in which we live!

I am inclined to suggest that we dispense with the overly ritualized washing of feet on Holy Thursday or the sanitized “reverencing” of the cross on Good Friday. Instead of going to church, ride a bus across town sometime this “holy” week. Sit for one hour with a community as much our own as our self-sorted congregations.  Get beyond “the law” and our domesticated “public” liturgies.

Whose face do we see?

What Really Matters

God must find us very tedious at times! Yesterday I overheard a media report speculating whether an image reflected in a rain drop was truly an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Oh, for God’s sake – literally! I also find pious fascination, bordering on obsession, with items such as the Shroud of Turin to be a distraction and pointless. All we are given in Scripture is an empty tomb – no witnesses to the “big event”!  We are given faith-filled encounters of people who experienced one who was dead to now be alive! That’s where we must look as well – to our own intimate encounter with the Risen One.

There is some buzz these days about the authenticity of a papyrus fragment suggesting that Jesus may have been married. The “evidence” comes from the discovery of a document from somewhere between the 4th and 8th centuries in which Jesus is quoted as referring to “my wife.” Oh, for God’s sake! Does it really matter? Preoccupation with such questions – important and necessary as they are from a scholarly perspective – is a distraction from what we really should be about during Holy Week. Ultimately, Jesus’ marital status doesn’t really matter to the faith we proclaim!

I am convinced that the overwhelming evidence combined with 2000 years of tradition and the near universal consensus of biblical scholars makes clear that Jesus was not married. Fr. James Martin, SJ offers a cogent defense for this position in the current issue of America magazine. I highly recommend it for its clarity, balance and brevity [link]. 

I hope never to be paranoid, often catch myself being cynical, but invite the charge of being skeptical. Do you see more than coincidence in the big media splash given to this “old news” – from at least 2012 – at the very beginning of Holy Week? I’m not suggesting anything sinister! It’s likely just good PR to hype the report when it will get the most coverage. Would you agree that this “news” would be received differently if it had been released during the week leading up to the Fourth of July!

Rather than pointing a finger at “faithless media” or blaming secularists waging “culture wars” we should really direct that finger at ourselves. Use the media report as an occasion to reflect upon and potentially deepen our faith — in what really matters!  Especially this week… Where do we look for evidence of the resurrection? …to an empty tomb? …to the testimony of others? …to physical evidence? Do we look for it in the past? …in other people’s stories? If so, we are bound to be disappointed. We are so easily distracted by trivia and non-essentials.

Yes, we have the testimony of others. However, these are only intended to lead us to an immediate and intimate encounter with the Risen One precisely where we are most in need of a savior… here, now, today! Don’t be distracted.

The “big event” doesn’t happen in an empty tomb outside Jerusalem!

 

Redeeming Pain

There is more than enough tragedy and suffering to go around. Instant global communication has compounded the impact. For example, outrage at the killing of Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt in Syria yesterday ricocheted around the world within 24 hours. Such moral outrage is necessary and important – but it can be numbing. All the more reason to celebrate healing, success and grounds for hope!

Thanks to a friend from the Minnesota International Center who shared a [link] to a really powerful piece about forgiveness and reconciliation in Rwanda. Stunning photos accompany disarming profiles of human anguish and triumph – a testimony to healing and hope for what is possible within a generation of the horrific genocide in which 1 million Rwandans were killed.

We have witnessed such reconciliation and reason for hope before. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu provided a mechanism for people to confess their participation in human rights abuses during apartheid and receive amnesty. Some argue that those responsible for the policies of apartheid should have been held criminally liable. But that is not the route chosen by the Nobel Peace laureate archbishop or President Nelson Mandela.

The moral genius of the TRC was the public airing of the painful truth which prevented the violence of apartheid from being buried in the past.  Rev. Marie Fortune warns on her [blog], the Shakespearian advice to “forgive and forget” is too often directed at victims and survivors of violence. “Forgiveness does not come from a position of powerlessness but from a place of empowerment and a degree of safety; forgiveness is never about forgetting the past, but in remembering the past in order to strengthen our efforts not to repeat it.” Justice requires truth-telling and remembering before forgiveness.  We see this in Rwanda.  And, as numbing as it can be, instant worldwide news reporting has the potential to serve this essential purpose.

Coincidentally, David Brooks has a marvelous piece in today’s NYTimes entitled “What Suffering Does” [link]. He is quick to point out, “there is nothing intrinsically ennobling about suffering. Just as failure is sometimes just failure (and not your path to becoming the next Steve Jobs) suffering is sometimes just destructive, to be exited as quickly as possible.” Yet, Brooks celebrates those transcendent survivors who have the capacity to understand their suffering in some larger providence:

It’s at this point that people in the midst of difficulty begin to feel a call. They are not masters of the situation, but neither are they helpless. They can’t determine the course of their pain, but they can participate in responding to it. They often feel an overwhelming moral responsibility to respond well to it. …  

The right response to this sort of pain is not pleasure. It’s holiness. I don’t even mean that in a purely religious sense. It means seeing life as a moral drama, placing the hard experiences in a moral context and trying to redeem something bad by turning it into something sacred.

Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different. 

Martyrdom in Syria, the hard work of reconciliation in Rwanda, requisite remembering with truth-telling of Marie Fortune, suffering’s ennobling potential cited by David Brooks… wherever we look a world in anguish invites us – desperately needs us – to embrace the paschal drama of Holy Week.

Countering Lenten Lethagy

I admit it – I’ve gotten a little lax and lazy! We are two-thirds of the way into Lent and I need a mid-course correction. Today I took a pen to paper and tried to generate possible strategies for activating each of the traditional Lenten practices of fasting, alms-giving and prayer. Here’s what I came up with. No, I am not committing to put each into practice. I just need to get the energy flowing as a counter to Lenten lethargy. Maybe something here will give you a jump-start as well.

FASTING

City crews came through yesterday pruning trees on the boulevard. Pruning shapes, strengthens and beautifies trees. Pruning actually increases productivity in food and flower-bearing plants. What “pruning” would have a corresponding effect in me?

Fasting immediately conjures food and eating less. What if we ate the same amount but shared a meal with someone who is hungry for more than food right now? What would happen if we invited a grieving neighbor over for dinner or a struggling colleague out for lunch?

A dinner guest on Tuesday said he has a goal of taking the bus to work at least four days a week. He’s worked up to that number and has learned to enjoy his commute much more than if he were battling traffic. He saves a boatload of money but also takes pride in lessening his consumption of fossil fuels.  Consider eco-fasting!

ALMS-GIVING

I am very attached to my opinions and am disposed to judgmentalism. What if I were to consistently try – and this would be a challenge – to give everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt? What if I tried really hard to give the best interpretation to the other person’s words or behaviors for a full 24 hours?

What is our most precious resource? Of course, its time! What if I conscientiously gave my attention to someone who holds a different opinion, to the neighbor who asks to borrow a cup of sugar but actually wants to vent about an exasperating child, or recognized when someone needs us to take time to quietly listen and is not asking for answers or our opinion?

What would be the hardest thing for me to give away? Wow! As I compile my long list of possibilities I am inspired to wonder “why?” What is it about this item that would make it so hard? Simply getting in touch with this fact opens us to better understand our true values and can be quite illuminating!

PRAYER

I have Psalm 46:10 on a card on an easel in my prayer space: “Be still and know that I am God.” Truthfully, God must get pretty exasperated with my incessant babble, wish-lists and emergencies. What if I were to give myself over to simply resting in God’s embrace like a child in her mother’s arms?  What… let God be God?

My friend Susan Stabile quoted Fr. Robert Barron’s book Why Your Body Matters for Prayer on her blog Creo en Dios a few days ago [link]: The body in a significant sense precedes the mind. If you’re having difficulty in prayer today try kneeling, or bowing, or making some sort of reverent gesture. The body often leads the mind into a deeper spiritual space.”

We mouth the Lord’s Prayer all the time but do we really mean it? What if we were the pray – really pray – YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done… here, now!  Mean it!  That would be nothing short of the deep, transforming conversion Lent is intended to inspire.

Finally, and most importantly, Lenten practices are not about our endurance or success. Rather, they are intended merely to dispose us to God’s enduring presence and ever-merciful love.

Time Out of Time

Think of all the moments in your life when time stood still. How long did you hold your newborn when she first emerged? How long did that moonlit walk last on the night you realized you were in love? How long did you sit in the waiting room watching the door each time it opened, willing the surgeon to come out with good news?

With these supple and striking images Anna Keating conjures moments of “time out of time” when we feel profoundly alive, grounded in the depths of our humanity. We all know them – such time “does not obey the ordinary rhythms of minutes and hours” but rather “burst the bonds of time.” Keating reminds us of the ancient Greek understanding of chronos and kairos. Chronos is measured by a clock and has specific parameters like the time it takes to read this blog. Kairos is that supple “time out of time” — that “due season”, an irreplicable moment of opportunity, or irrefutable flash of clarity and purpose.

Christians are invited to enter such “time out of time” during the Triduum, the “three days” from sundown Holy Thursday through the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. These three days carry a rhythm that breathes like a single day! Triduum is time to stop, be quiet, tend the silence, gather, prepare and pray. Keatings’ blog post is valuable reading [link]. I gratefully cite it nearly two weeks prior to Holy Thursday to reiterate Keating’s essential point: keeping Triduum warrants our anticipation and deliberate planning.

Yes, participation in the liturgies at our churches is to be highly recommended! It compounds our experience to share the dynamic flow of these liturgies with the same community of seekers. But this is not an endurance test nor is anyone keeping attendance – show up as you are able! Savor the magnificent rituals, but don’t depend on them exclusively! How do you wish to enter Triduum? How can you better dispose yourself to a kairos experience transcending the “chronology” posted in a schedule or texts printed in a missal? Of course, show up even if it all comes down to the last moment — grace happens! But, given the chance, be deliberate. Be choiceful. Be generous with yourself. Embrace the opportunity. Plan ahead.

The world was stunned by Pope Francis washing the feet of lay people on Holy Thursday last year, women as well as men and even a Muslim. We are two weeks out! We all would do well to stretch the rubrics and transcend tired rituals.  Whose feet deserve to be washed this year? Whose feet would you like to see washed? How might you “wash” these feet whether within a liturgy or with other gestures outside of the church’s time-honored ritual?  Maybe, especially for us control-freaks, we need to allow someone else to figuratively but profoundly “wash” our feet.

Good Friday invites us to walk with Jesus through his passion and death. Scripture for each of the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross are available [here]. With which point along the Way do you especially identify this year? Why is that? Get up-close-and-personal with Jesus in that resonant kairos moment. Do you identify with a particular character in the passion narrative? Be that person for someone outside of church – carry someone’s cross for a while, wipe the sweat and blood of someone suffering. Maybe you know what it is like to fall multiple times.  Go with your heart – it knows where your kairos beckons.

Easter Vigil is the traditional time for Baptism. Do you know the date of your Baptism? Give your godparents a call and wish them Happy Easter. Take some time to consider what your Baptism has meant to you. They say faith is not so much taught as it is caught. When, why and where did you “catch” your faith? Jesus knew in the Garden that he had a “baptism” yet to undergo. What “agony” are you enduring?  What “baptism by fire” is awaiting you? How does Jesus’ dying and rising strengthen you for what lies ahead?

Regardless of the season of the year or the liturgical calendar, when have you experienced “Easter”? What would Easter look-like for you this year? Mary of Magdala thought Jesus was the gardener – how might the Risen One choose to appear to you in kairos time this year?

What would make time stand still?  You know what you need – make it happen. We’ve got time!

Contours of Capacity

I landed in Phoenix seven days ago with a quote from Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings framing my arrival: “Each day a life. Each morning we must hold out the chalice of our being to receive, to carry, and give back.  It must be held out empty – for the past must only be reflected in its polish, its shape, its capacity.”  Enduring gifts of family, companionship, place, years and memory invited me to trust my emptiness as the markings of capacity.

For decades my brother Jerry made sure my sister-in-law had a fresh long-stem red rose on the coffee table. This was my first visit since his funeral in July so there was a boatload of apprehension about his absence. I arrived at Marilyn’s house on the first morning with a fresh red rose from the same Safeway that was Jerry’s source. We shared a tearful embrace in the family room within eye-shot of Jerry’s recliner, his mantra fresh in my ears: “Life on life’s terms.”

How proud he would be, and I am, of his sons! On Sunday evening, in the side yard of the home where the boys grew into men, 39 y/o Matt leapt with sweeping command of airspace tossing a football to a jumble of Jerry’s grandkids – unknown to Matt I recognized his father’s athleticism and good-looks flashing across his face. We had just returned from the zoo where the kids were strategically preoccupied with all-things exotic allowing this godfather to savor with approval stories of a godson’s incessant juggling of parenting, profession and priorities. What is “success”? How is its definition different at different times in our lives? Quantification, calculation are so inadequate, deficient. Marilyn had previously presented Jerry’s walking stick to me. I was grateful to lean upon its sturdy base while we made our way through the elephants, camels, flamingos, jaguars and macaws!

Before dinner Chris garnered an uncle’s unspoken praise and admiring attention when he dismissed his choice of ice water as a matter of Lenten abstinence. His eldest would later share her frustration with “giving up candy” but failing to “make it through Ash Wednesday.” She quickly shifted to excitement at the prospect of her fourth grade class being able to enact the Stations of the Cross at church on April 12. With an inward smile I commiserated with Ella’s frustration and delight – of course we fall short with even our best intentions. Perhaps the point is not our success or endurance but our need for God and enduring providence.  Enacting the Stations of the Cross will serve her well – hopefully a far distant time from now – when life inevitably presents them to her in a myriad of forms. But that avuncular wisdom should surely wait another time. We had a multiplicity of blessings before dinner as numerous children vied for the prestige of leading our family prayer. What goes through a grandparent’s heart at a moment like that?

My mind remains awash with the prospect of Ella’s class enacting the Stations of the Cross. I was reminded all too well throughout the week. Staying with a dear sister is a precious gift but provides yet another lesson in letting-go and moving-on. Claudia and her husband share a love strengthened by having grieved the loss of their first loves. Dean is an absolutely marvelous man! Thankfully, love is not a zero-sum game and he and Claudia have no need to disguise an enduring love for Carol and John. News on Saturday of a sister-in-law’s uterine cancer weighs heavy as another cross to bear with a tenacity only hope can inspire. The prospect of a favorite nephew’s move to Boston comes with the sobering reality of seeing much less of him, and his objectively adorable pre-school daughters. A weekend retreat at the Franciscan Renewal Center imprinted a resonant image of Moses – a man of privilege as a member of Pharaoh’s household whose fidelity to his core identity transformed him into a poor desert nomad with leadership and authority of a very different sort.

Lenten wisdom even sprang from the utter devastation ten and twelve-year-old grandnephews expressed after Creighton’s collapse in the NCAA basketball tournament. Their dad, another godson, used the occasion to introduce them to one of life’s hardest lessons: Very, very few people ever win their last game! Do the math… 68 teams, single elimination, only one team wins the championship, on that team perhaps only four or five are seniors for whom this is their final game.  So many compete, so very few finish with a victory. Perhaps the greatest lesson parents can teach children is the fine art of losing and that life is ultimately about loss, letting go… Lenten themes, Stations of the Cross, paschal mystery, emptiness marking the contour of our capacity.

I never shared Jerry’s athleticism and actually hated football. Perhaps now I can finally catch the wisdom he wanted to pass on to grandchildren. I leave PHX today with Jerry’s walking stick firmly in hand, grateful to lean on its steady base, with his mantra echoing still… Life on life’s terms!

Even more, as he never tired of saying… Thank you, thank you, thank you!