Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Listening to the Silence

I am a left brained person, very analytical and methodical.  For you Meyers Briggs people, my personality type is ISFJ (what is that?).  Needless to say, I feel most comfortable and effective when I am solving a problem.  I've written about this before, but felt the need to explore deeper into it as part of my Lenten journey.

I recently finished a book called 'The Power of Silence' by Robert Cardinal Sarah.  It really challenged my sensibilities, as it strongly advocates for what I would call the 'Anti-Jim'.  What I felt  it was pushing me to do is to recognize that I use all of the noise in my life as a tool to keep my mind busy so that I do not have to think and reflect on the 'harder' aspects of existence.  It helped me to be cognizant of the fact that I continuously and constantly search out problems to be analyzing and thinking about to effectively build a wall with the purpose of keeping out any deeper and more substantial lines of thought.

Basically I have conditioned my inner life to be uncomfortable in silence - what Sarah calls the Suffocation Syndrome -  and so when I find myself in the midst of it, or even when I intentionally seek it out as I have been doing this Lent, I am very antsy and uncomfortable.  I'm not talking just silence in terms of no exterior noise - I also mean silencing my heart and mind from all the thoughts and gymnastics that can go on in there.  For me, its a great Lenten practice.

If you are a reader I highly recommend the book - lots of great messages.  If you aren't, below are some of those messages that touched me - maybe they will challenge you also...

"If there is an illness that comes from noise, we would have to call it the suffocation syndrome. I notice it through the experience of candidates who come on retreat. Memories, desires, hurts, and fears of which they are unaware and that lie at the bottom of their souls resurface. In their everyday routine, the constant influx of news, meetings, and various activities have ceaselessly covered up these voices in the depths of their being and allowed them no opportunity to reemerge into consciousness. Silence and solitude reveal them. Since the discovery is not always pleasant, and the one concerned is rather at a loss, he tries to keep them outside the field of consciousness by maintaining the permanent noise that prevents them from becoming manifest."

"The proliferation of information on demand, of sounds and images in the last century or so is stupefying. Man’s sonic and visual landscape no longer has anything in common with that of our grandparents. I imagine that it must take a certain spiritual fortitude to protect oneself from this invasion, not by a wholesale rejection, but by a proper asceticism. Solzhenitsyn rightly remarked that although there is a right to information, there is also a right not to be informed."

"Finally, I wonder whether the voice that the modern world seeks to stifle with incessant noise and movement might not be the one that tells us: “Remember that you are dust and that you will return to dust.” It is a well-known fact that our society characteristically ignores death. It is understandable: Without God, without eternal life, without Christ, and without redemption, how can anyone bear the thought of death?"

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noises and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. . . . The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. Jesus is always waiting for us in silence. In this silence he listens to us and speaks to our souls. And there, we will hear his voice. . . . In this silence we find a new energy and a real unity. God’s energy becomes ours, allowing us to perform things well. There is unity of our thoughts with his thoughts, of our prayers with his prayers, of our actions with his actions, of our life with his life."

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I’ll Take The Pearson’s Over The Patriots

By Sean Walsh

While Foles and Brady were marching their respective teams up and down the field on Superbowl 52, my mind was somewhere else. I wasn’t concerned about the teams. I follow neither the Eagles or the Patriots. I follow the Pearson’s. When the game ended on a Hail Mary pass that sealed the fate of the Patriots, I knew the fate of Jack Pearson was about to be revealed. Who is Jack Pearson and why do we care? Jack is fictional. Here is why we Dad’s should care.

The show is called “This Is Us”. Watch it. With the mass unmasking of sexual predators and immoral men making the news, Jack Pearson is a rare breath of fresh air we so desperately need. Television Dad’s are more likely shown as buffoons masquerading as men. Men who dread commitment, feel stifled by marriage and tempted by lifestyles lacking virtue or accountability, and often burdened by the many demands of children and family life. Audiences laugh at their pre-pubescent behavior, simplistic reasoning and childish attempts to avoid guilt and punishment at all costs. It’s getting pretty damn old, isn’t it?

Enter Jack. He’s doing something that TV men are rarely allowed to do or be celebrated for. Jack leads with his heart. His family is his whole world. He takes great pride in raising his children well and keeping his wife happy. He and his wife Rebecca are a team of one. He is compassionate, loving and completely other-centered. He is revered by his family because he loves so deeply and honestly. And get this Dad’s – he sets an enormously high bar for his children, not because he had some intense career or achieved some great external accomplishment. He did it because he knew it was his responsibility. In one classic scene Jack is asked by a doctor treating him for burns why he went back into his burning house to save his daughter’s dog. Jack’s response, “Because I love the girl who loves the dog.” It is that same fire that Jack uses to save his family from what would eventually take his own life in a gut-wrenching post-Superbowl episode that all us fans of the show knew was coming.

Jack loves his wife. Jack loves his children. Every one of us aspires to make the best for his family, out of even the worst situations, and to be admired, respected, and loved as a victor of virtue. Jack Pearson graciously surpasses modern day TV expectations as a husband and father. He portrays the delicate balance of fatherhood – the compassionate and gentle rock whose virtuous spirit lives on in his children. But the very best portrayal of Jack is this – he’s broken. Jack is far from perfect. His past includes an alcoholic father, a depressed and almost non-existent mother, the Vietnam War, work pressure, etc. He falls, but he battles. He fights and he fights because he knows exactly what’s at stake. Ultimately, he wins the battle against the devil not for himself – but for his wife and children. That’s pretty iconic and not often seen on TV shows. Jack is me. Jack is you. I want to be a lot more like Jack.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


By Fred Vilbig

In the past I’ve tried to write about the greatness of God. He created the Heavens, all the stars and stellar complexes. He created atoms, all subatomic particles, and the basic forces that appear to make up everything. And he arranged them all and continues to arrange them all into stunningly beautiful sunrises, sunsets, starlit nights, rainbows, flowers, children, and all of the other astonishingly beautiful things we encounter in our daily lives. And He created all of the angels, powers, dominions, principalities, and all of the other things that inhabit the Heavens. God is truly omnipotent.

We know that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity Who is God because He told us He was. “The Father and I are one.” “Before Abraham was, I am.” As C. S. Lewis noted, Jesus was either a liar, insane, or God. Since He rose from the dead, He proved He was God.

And even though He was God, He emptied Himself of His Divinity and became man. He so emptied Himself of His Divinity that when He cast out demons, they only recognized Him as the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah: merely human; not divine. Why do I say that? If the demons had realized that they were in the presence of God, they wouldn’t have had to have been cast out. They would have fled before He arrived. For them, to be in the presence of God would have been unbearably painful. Even though He was God, Jesus so totally emptied Himself of His Divinity that not even the demons realized Who they were talking to.

At almost every sporting event, we see someone holding a sign that says, “John 3:16”: “For God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” So many times we focus on the great love of God for us, which is true. But for a moment, I want to focus on the other aspect of what God did for us.

Our society wants us to think that everyone is okay; sin is a trifling matter. But how immense is the horror of sin that it was necessary for God to become man in order to overcome the effects of sin? And not only that, He died a painful and humiliating death to redeem us from our sins. The Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, the Word through Whom all things were made, emptied Himself of His Divinity, became man, and died on the Cross, all to overcome sin. I don’t think we appreciate the immensity of the tragedy of sin.

I think it is profitable for us to keep these things in mind, particularly as we enter into the season of Lent. God gave up his Divinity and eventually his life. What are we giving up for Lent? How do we plan to repent and turn away from sin? God did his part; now it’s our turn.

Happy Lent!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Zacchaeus and C

Entering Jericho, Jesus passed through the city.  Jesus was just passing through.  What were his plans?  The crowds were building, following him.  Zacchaeus was trying to see what Jesus was like but being small of stature, was unable to do so because of the crowd.  He risked Jesus staying his course and coming his way.  He ran some distance ahead in Jesus’ projected direction and climbed a tall tree.  When Jesus came to the spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down, I mean to stay at your house today.”  He quickly descended and welcomed him with delight.  When this was observed, everyone began to murmur.  Jesus stopped intentionally to be seen and heard not only for Zacchaeus, but for everyone who might indict, who might desire to know healing, who might be lost, who might not know demons and for those who did.  Zacchaeus stood his ground ….  The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.

Luke 19:1,3,5-7,8,10

We all have our demons.  They bring intense pain, loss.  They attempt to smother who we are.  Many can bring a lifetime of struggle and challenge, appearing monumental to overcome.  To us, personally, most are masked addictions; drugs, alcohol, gaming, guns, pornography, envy, rage, idolatry, egocentrism, resentment, deceit, greed, power.  However, to those who know us, our friends, spouses, children, they can recognize, unveil our demons.  The demons recognize them and fear them as they did/do Jesus.  The demons retreat, surrender. 
            Jesus does not say much about demons.  They remain vague.  He drives them out.  Jesus is all about restoration, peace, love and dignity.  He generously demonstrates and gives healing, light, mercy, joy.  He identifies.  He models for us.  He invites, expects us to follow him and do the same in his name. 


we sit in a booth.  pizza lies like shattered glass on the table between us
i remember …
            8 years ago ms. C told me “f’n science is stupid”
today she tells me …
“my demons are hiding, waiting to come out”
obsession, paranoia, blindness emerge
scars like cryptic dominoes pock her palms and wrists
            tiny pools of water collect in the dimples failing to wash away the pain
            i was 10.  what’s love look like?
            father … angry his daughter takes a cigarette from countertop
                        mother … watches while smoking, father brands his anger
            do other kids get lovin’ this way?
ms. C’s given birth to 2 babies with 1 man in 5 years
the 2nd child died days after she was born
            she thought he loved her; he thought she loved him 
at the fork, each wandered along different paths
depression, a parasite on loss, bore deeply into C’s soul
            she drank bourbon. shot heroin. drank more bourbon. shot more heroin
more demons came. she did not recognize them. they entered
            a friend she barely knew by name o.d.’d and wrapped herself from life
aliens in uniform stole her precious child
where is her daughter and do her guardians smoke?
friends lie, turn on her
big man behind high bench sends her to a cage for 2 years
gates open, C’s free to go.  she fears demons hidden within
auto license revoked for 11 months
attempt to deceive failed. drug test failed
metrolink pass takes her everywhere & nowhere
            the closest bus drops her off 1.5 hours before her work begins at 3 pm
            it does not run at 11 pm.  3 connections later bring her home at 1:30 am
everyone knows her as bad; addictions, depression define her,
but that “is not who I am”    
C speaks truth
            upon her words i focus
they’re whispers of the Holy Spirit … HOPE
the demons are coming out
            they have been seen
            they know
ms. C has joined Zacchaeus in standing her ground.
                                                            *C’s initial has been changed to protect her privacy

Help others who battle constantly.
Take a supper date with your daughter or son.
Have a beer with a friend, break bread together and talk.
Run or walk a 5k.
Join a discussion at PX-90.
Pray, listen, read in our adoration chapel.
Family, friend time on the deck, in the park, in the neighborhood.
Immerse in a CRHP weekend.
Take a walk in the woods with your spouse.
Put yourself in the Mass.
Join a service organization.
Take your family on an outing where connecting with one another is of greater value than the venue.
Live the sacraments grand and small.

What demon-breakers come to your mind? 
How might God be calling you to act?

These are mere samples of God’s fruits, the gifts Jesus came to give, the gifts we are asked to give freely.
Demons hate these.  They become exposed.  They tremble.