Can We Heal Wounds?

When the horror of September 11th came upon the United States my friends with children fought vigorously to keep their children away from the television screen. Others even fought to keep themselves away from the images we know all too well from that day. Many wondered what to tell their kids when they returned home from school and some even hoped that their teachers hadn’t spilled the beans.

I wondered to myself if this were a healthy approach? It makes sense that we don’t want people, never mind children to be exposed to horrible images that could have traumatic effects on their psyche. But what about telling them about what happened? It seems that many of my friends tried to seal the information from their kids for at least some time, usually before one of their friends remarked about the dreadful news.

I started to think about other things that people don’t tell their kids because they don’t want them to worry. Finances are hard. Mom’s got cancer. There was an accident. Your dog went to heaven. It seems anything that is bad is taboo for children at times and people only tell them things that they need to, only when absolutely necessary.

Slate had a great article today that got me thinking about this. They claim three real reasons that college students (and the rest of us, they claim) are more stressed out than ever before. I’ll riff on each here and add a fourth that stems from them and will add some thoughts about what I see amongst my own students and colleagues.

The first is a lack of community. One colleague of mine said: “I knew there was trouble when I found two student residents in their room arguing with one another–but they weren’t yelling at each other, they were TEXTING and IMing while in the same room! I put a stop to that and made them hash it out.”

Human contact and kinship help alleviate anxiety (our evolutionary ancestors, of course, were always safer in numbers), yet as we leave family behind to migrate all over the country, often settling in insular suburbs where our closest pal is our plasma-screen TV, we miss out on this all-important element of in-person connection. As fear researcher Michael Davis of Emory University told me: “If you’ve lost the extended family and lost the sense of community, you’re going to have fewer people you can depend on, and therefore you’ll be more anxious. Other cultures have much more social support and are better off psychologically because of it.” Another factor that adds to this problem—especially among young people—is our growing reliance on texting and social media for community, which many psychologists say is no substitute for real human interaction. When you’re feeling most dreadful, you don’t run to your Facebook profile for consolation; you run to a flesh-and-blood friend.

I think about my own students with this one. One of the most popular clubs on campus is our Christian Life Communities, a weekly prayer group of sorts that invites people to do a short form of the Ignatian examen in community. We discuss the highs and lows of the week and provide a meditation and a time for affirmations and prayer requests. It’s one of the times in my week that I feel I can really connect with our students and I start to hear just what people are carrying around with them. This is safe space and sometimes when I hear what people are dealing with I’m surprised they are walking and talking, never mind getting a degree. I feel the same way about the students I’ve seen in spiritual direction. And I often feel that they are unprepared for all that life is offering them and impressed that somehow they are still able to function at such high levels.

Professionally, I notice the texting more amongst outside younger colleagues than amongst my students at Canisius. I communicate with many people via text. And sometimes it’s inappropriate. There are some who try to conduct business via text when it would be faster and easier to call and have a conversation. Indeed texting is somehow more efficient but then again, it can lead to problems. My staff does this well. We text when necessary. When we need to get a message to someone quickly and think they are in a meeting or can’t talk. Or when the message is a quick one that requires some kind of action “Can you grab cider for the meeting?” would be an example.

The second is information overload which I discuss at length in my book, Googling God. There’s so much information out there that you can’t possibly consume it all. Our students often ask for bullet points and other quick soundbytes of information and I often give it to them because they just don’t need one more thing to read and information is bombarding them at high rates all the time. I don’t ever not recommend reading and I give them plenty to chew on when I think there’s a book or an article that is worth their time, but I also try to encourage that there’s not a rush to consume this information–to savor the reading process and to enjoy reading and gaining information. I often feel that college would be more enjoyable if we just let students finish when they finish. Now that’s an impossible business model to sustain, but from my own perspective I was able to work and do two graduate classes per semester and I enjoyed that immensely. I found it difficult to take 5 undergraduate classes and hold all that information together while working at the radio station and socializing and all of my campus ministry involvement.

I find my present students are great at balancing their time. Many are involved in much and have heavy duty science majors or are working on a big time business degree. I never knew how the medical students kept up at UB and the pre-meds are just as impressive at Canisius. But I do notice their anxiety. I do notice that it is not easy for them. And I do see them when they get overwhelmed by their to-do lists and the pressure of being good students and having a social life and trying to figure out what they would most like to be and do with their lives.

Some are brilliant: They’ve realized that they are never going to know everything that someone else thinks they should know. It took me years to get that idea through my thick skull.

Finally here’s the last major point:

Put simply, Americans have developed habits for dealing with anxiety and stress that actually make them far worse. We vilify our aversive emotions and fight them, rather than letting them run their own course. We avoid situations that make us nervous. We try to bury uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and stress with alcohol or entertainment or shopping sprees. Psychologist Steven Hayes, creator of a highly effective anxiety treatment formula called acceptance and commitment therapy, told me that we’ve fallen victim to “feel-goodism,” the false idea that “bad” feelings ought to be annihilated, controlled, or erased by a pill. This intolerance toward emotional pain puts us at loggerheads with a basic truth about being human: Sometimes we just feel bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that—which is why struggling too hard to control our anxiety and stress only makes things more difficult.

Amen! We protect ourselves way too much. And we protect others from our sadness and what we perceive is their sadness way too much.

Interestingly enough, comedian Louis CK hits the nail on the head with this: (warning: vulgar at times).

Perhaps our call is not to remove our student’s sadness or stress, but to help them more appropriately deal with that. We often do this in community on retreats, prayer groups, spiritual direction and on more than a few occasions by collaborating with our counseling center.

Our students need us and more importantly, they need community, they need time to chill to detox from information and they need to share their fears in a safe space where they can actually feel their emotions and be supported by peers and ministers.

In a world that is marked by terrorism all too often, anxiety is ever present globally and we have fewer resources to turn to because everyone is so busy that we have a hard time paying attention to those who need us. Older Americans might note that they were afraid of the Russians or of the bomb–but their community structure was much more intertwined with one another than our students’ lives are today.

This is our call as higher ed professionals and as Catholic Campus Ministers. As Pope Francis put it in the recent interview in America Magazine:

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

Heal the wounds… the wounds that are felt deeply and all too easily pushed away. Help people to feel their wounds and then to not be afraid to place your hands in the wounds of Jesus, like Thomas and allow the healing that God has to offer to take place through you, even in small and simple ways. This is ministry.

And it is where we always encounter God waiting for us and asking us to heal wounds.

Living in Fear

“GET DOWN! GET DOWN NOW! ON THE GROUND!”

I was minding my own business writing one of these columns on my couch when I heard this yelling nearby. It was a lot more nearby than I thought.

It was in my driveway.

I live in Amherst, a small suburb of Buffalo. As far as I’m concerned, it’s Buffalo. I mean the distance from the upper east side to midtown on New York City is how close Amherst is to Buffalo. Amherst, however, has been known as one of the safest places in America, repeatedly in the highest categories of standards of living in all of those magazine articles that I don’t read.

I lived here because it was the midpoint of the two UB Campuses, the guy next door does my landscaping (which I’m just God-awful at) and my house was relatively cheap and I liked it. It was a quiet neighborhood and I could walk the dog easily in it. It’s still only a 15 minute drive to Canisius, so I’m still loving that commute.

Seeing those cops reminded me of all of the times growing up where I wished a cop were around when I grew up in a rather hairy crime-ridden neighborhood. Where I feared the walk home and wondered if I was ever going to feel safe. I went to bed at night wondering if this was the night the people break in to steal, or worse.

I walked outside and said to one of the cops, “Um, since you’re in my driveway, I think I should know why.” The cop quickly said, “Shoplifter from Wal-Mart! We got this. You can relax.”

Easy for him to say. There’s not men with guns drawn in front of his house.

After it was all over, the man seemed to go quietly. Cuffed behind his back, lifting his unbelted pants up so they wouldn’t fall down. It seemed like a lot of work for someone who stole something. I wondered how scared the man on the ground was? How afraid the cop who drew his gun must have been? How scared my wife was when she heard the yelling? Fear seemed to be all around.

While it’s not right to steal, I wondered why this man did steal and what he might have stolen? I wondered what possessed him to steal, or motivated him? He was young, not a teen, but young. Why would he run over a petty theft?

It’s probably not good to be black and a thief in the suburbs. And that makes me a bit angry that he doesn’t feel safe in my neighborhood.

I also wondered why Wal-Mart seems to be such a target for thieves. Why would someone steal from a store that professes bargains? I don’t shop at WalMart for a million reasons, but I also wonder why there’s such a high incidence of crime there.

I like my house. I’ve worked hard to be a homeowner. I like living in a safe neighborhood and tease my wife at times when she worries about crime in the neighborhood, especially since I grew up in a neighborhood that was actually quite dangerous.

But now…fear creeps back in. Fear that we are never really safe anywhere. I’m glad the cops caught this guy, but also upset that someone thinks they need to steal. Fear doesn’t sit well with me.

So perhaps my prayer for today is for those who feel the need to steal. To not have the freedom to choose to pay for things that they desire. To steal because someone else put them up to it. To steal for kicks. To steal out of some kind of fear only to find fear looking at them again from the gravel of my driveway.

Let us pray to not be fearful, but to be brave enough to help the poor so that they need not steal. To be able to allow the police to keep us safe when they need to. And to be able to see the other as ourself and pray for them today.

I Once Was Lost…But Now…

Deacon Greg pointed me towards this hysterical story today on Facebook.

As a guitarist, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my guitar and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost…

OK that could totally happen to me.

But I began to think about this more deeply. That man played his heart out and really offered all of himself for a man he never met. The diggers were moved, perhaps because nobody ever really notices who they are. They provide a valuable service but digging septic tanks isn’t exactly a glamorous job.

And our friend here noticed them and their work, at least in the minds of the diggers.

To add to this, our musician has the great ability to laugh at himself. He doesn’t beat himself up about it, instead turning it into a beautiful story that goes awry.

That’s probably the best version of himself.

Saints are often people who do simple things in extraordinary ways. They prod us to become all that we are and to have a great appreciation for life. And they laugh. They remind us to not take life too seriously but to bring joy to others when we can.

Where did our musician not bring joy? Maybe the funeral director might be annoyed with him because of his tardiness, but even the man he was supposed to play for can appreciate his song, even in the wrong spot.

Intention is always key. Our friend here intended to bring joy to a man who had nobody to even bury him. And instead, even his fault of lateness, can be turned into moments of joy for so many, including now us who read his words.

Today, let us ask ourselves how we might offer just a bit more joy to others, even in the midst of our own weaker moments. Amid tough weeks and difficult ventures, we need to take time to laugh at ourselves.

And when we do, we find deeper experiences of God…who stands there with us laughing.

I Needed a Date…And You Danced With Me

When I was a sophomore in college we had a tradition where your roommate would set you up on a date for the residence hall’s annual dance. My roommate and my R.A. knew I had a huge crush on a young lady named Maria, who my R.A. actually had dated for some time. So, they went and asked her and she agreed to be my date.

Until the night before the dance and then she decided that she had too much homework and had to bail.

They didn’t know how to tell me…so they tried to scramble, but by that time…everyone had a date already and it seemed as if I would have to go “stag.” Both my roommate and R.A. broke the news to me. To be honest, I was touched that Steve, my R.A., would even ask his ex-girlfriend for a favor so that I might have a date with her. My roommate, Joe, went the extra yard and tried to find a suitable replacement. Finally, my phone rang.

“Mike, it’s Steve DiSalvo.” Steve was the Resident Director in my old freshman year dorm and is still today, a close friend. “I heard about what happened. Come on over here and we’ll talk about it.”

So I went over. I was upset about this but also I was really honored that these three guys would go through so much trouble for me. I was shy and not very confident in these days. I didn’t really date and thought that most women weren’t all that interested in me. My roommmate was very confident and it didn’t help that I shrank in his shadow often around women.

Regardless, Steve met me at his dorm and said, “Let’s see, who might we know that you might like to go with to this dance?”

Just then, Melissa Morrissey entered the lounge we were sitting in. I had been a freshman advisor to her and had helped her register for classes.

“Hey Melissa,” Steve said. “You remember Mike, right?”

“Of course!” Melissa replied. “You helped us at registration and we saw each other at the movie in the grass.”

389651_10150340002544117_1275123817_nMelissa was one of those girls who I really liked. Not in a “I-want-to-really-really-date-you” way, but rather, I enjoyed her company when I was around her.

“So Melissa, you want to go with Mike to the Sesqui Dance tomorrow night?”

Melissa didn’t hesitate. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled a beautiful big smile and said “Sure! Why not? Sounds like fun!”

“Pick you up at 8?” I said. And she readily agreed.

“I have a great dress too! Thanks for asking!”

She darted down the hall and Steve just looked at me and said, “YOU are going to owe me, BIG TIME!”

I picked Melissa up at her dorm and she looked like a thousand dollars. Her long blonde, curly hair made her look like she could play the lead in a production of “Repunzel” the fairy tale of the girl with the long blonde hair. She had the perfect little black dress for the occasion. And she met me with a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

We had a wonderful time. We danced every dance. And hung out with friends. We grabbed a beer or two with friends later and in general just enjoyed each other’s company. There was no pressure and everything just seemed free and easy. For a “last second date” Melissa made me wish she was my date for every dance.

It was a weird time at Fordham. A student had murdered a local Bronx resident and the campus was on lockdown for fear of retribution. So there were all these activities in the late evening to encourage us not to go to the bars. That night we went to an on-campus movie after the dance and just laid out on the couches with friends. It was sweet and wonderful and in general, outside of my wife, Melissa was the best date ever.

Melissa didn’t know I was really struggling to feel accepted that year. Friends from freshman year had kind of faded. My roommate and I were good friends but started to get on each other’s nerves. I began to question if I wanted to go into the media that year and in general I was feeling lost. My grades were better than year, but still weren’t the stellar marks I was used to getting. I didn’t date and wasn’t sure that anyone would be interested. My confidence was at an all time low and then…when I found out about not having a date for the dance, I was probably at one of the lowest points of the year, perhaps even one of the lowest points of my life.

Enter Melissa. And she turned it all around in a single evening. And I have treasured the memory of that evening for more than 20 years now. It was an evening that didn’t end with a brief hook-up, nor even a passionate kiss.

It was, however, an evening that ended my loneliness. It may very well have been a major turning point for me.

Today I have shed many tears. This Friday, Melissa suffered a major heart attack and died at the much too young age of 42. We had kept up just a bit over the years mostly through facebook. She had started a business and had done some extensive traveling. I’m seeing a lot of posts from people who said Melissa mentored them and that was no surprise to me.

She was a great friend to all and will always be beloved my me as that great friend who very well may have lifted me up just when I needed it by a single act of kindness.

It may very well be a corporal work of mercy…”I needed a date…and you danced with me.” It seems too trite to say that perhaps God needed someone to dance with too, especially since she died much too young, but I may very well picture her doing that today…and remembering.

Scripture writes:

“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” -Jeremiah 31:13

There seems to be no amount of dancing that can ever end my sorrow at Melissa’s death, but then I remember that she danced with me in the first place, when nobody else would. And in remembering that my joy is restored. Let us celebrate her life each time we dance, especially with a beloved and remember her as a beloved and treasured friend.

First Day at School Memories

While many of my friends are sending their kids off to their first day of school and my wife heads in to her first day as the new after-school coordinator at her school, I’m filled with first day of school memories.

Of course, there’s nothing like that first day of school, for the first time. Mine was Kindergarten and my mother walked me to school which was one block from my house. We unexpectedly found my teacher in the hallway and my mother introduced me to her. Miss Suess took me by the hand and we walked to our classroom together and Mom went away. I was excited and anxious at the same time. What was going to happen next?

It was only a half day and I was in the afternoon class. I got switched to the morning class for some reason half way through the year and learned about getting up early.

Each year, we went school clothes shopping and I struggled to cover my books on that first day.

That first day though may very well have been my favorite memory of a first day at school, equalled only by a return to college each year.

Two worse first day memories come to mind:

The first was high school. I walked into my school and was excited. I was off to find my homeroom and was there pretty early. As I past the cafeteria smiling, I saw a group of Seniors sitting at a table. I sighed as I walked past and then I heard them:

“Duh…let’s see who I can make friends with! Stupid, freshman.”

Clearly high school was going to be a problem.

The second was middle school. I was coming into our parish school after going to public school from kindergarten until 6th grade. It started out well. I had come in three days late after a bout with some kind of illness. Mrs. Wasp my teacher, introduced herself and then looked to find me a seat.

Clearly, I was the new guy, but I was known to some in the school because I was an altar boy in the parish. One guy, Claudio, had began spreading rumors about me early and often. We had gotten into an altercation once after a bit of name calling. Apparently, he objected to me bringing up his mother in a foul way and this was his revenge.

Recess came and we played punchball–a kind of baseball game. Someone launched one far down the third base line and I raced over but it was well past me. The ball crawled under the fence before I could get to it. We weren’t allowed to climb over.

“HAYES!” Claudio yelled. “YOU OWE ME A NEW BALL!” He may have pushed me after that. What was worse was that he told all the girls that I stupidly let the ball roll under the fence. I saw someone passing by and got their attention and they retrieved the ball for us which Claudio took credit for later. But damage done. Worst two years of my life was that school and I didn’t look forward to a single day there.

But as I look to our freshman and see their excitement and yes, the jitters that still come with a new place, I recall my own college years as amazing. It fills me with much joy to be a small part of their experience and I hope that these years are a blessing to them.

Today, let’s be grateful for first day experiences, both good and bad. For even the bad ones make us more sensitive to others who may be struggling. The start of something new reminds me of God’s continual wiping away the slate of our sins and giving us a renewed chance to start again.

So as you start again…be grateful for the chance to start over and to make all that you can out of this, nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less. Amen.

Tennis Mensch

BQM6zgDCEAAB5PJA great story on Mashable about tennis great Roger Federer who went above and beyond the call of duty for an 18 year old fan with cancer whose one wish was to meet her hero. The entire story is longer and can be found here but this snip comes after a very full day already with Federer.

I was sitting there waiting for him and it was amazing because I saw soooo many other players. Tsonga asked to get one of the chairs in our table actually haha. I saw Murray, Nadal, Haas, Ferrer, Benneteau, Tipsarevic, Serena, Wozniacki, Radwanska, Lisicki, like, so many of them from up close. It was like heaven for a tennis fan haha. But then Roger finished his interviews and sat at out table with us. I had so many things for him to sign but I knew he was busy so I just took 4 pictures (one for each one in my family) and then 4 blank papers and my tennis bag, and gave for him to sign. He actually addressed the blank papers to each one of us, it was so perfect. In mine he wrote a bit more, and even a happy birthday!! (Did I mention it was my 18th birthday??) And then he asked me “is that it?” and I said “yes” and he was like “are you sure? Don’t be embarrassed about it.” He’s so amazing and kind. So I gave him the rest of the stuff to sign. And he was just sitting there signing and chatting with me, but his manager was telling the guys from ESPN that he needed to go eat lunch, and Roger probably knew he had to, but he would have stayed there the whole day, just talking to us. He stayed a lot more than he had to for sure. But then the people from ESPN tried kinda finishing things up so that he could leave before his manager freaked out. So he went around the table hugging my mom, my dad and my sister, and then it was my turn. He told me I had been through a lot and hugged me really hard and I just started crying so so so much in his shoulder (it was around that time that the picture from my avi was taken haha) He was like “awnn”. Then when I let go of him I was still like sobbing and I turned to him and he was kinda tearing up :’) I thanked him and then he went.

OK..I’m now a fan. I’ve been not following tennis as much as I used to and have not really been a big fan of Federer, but he won me over today. As we hear the stories of so many athletes who do horrible things and who never have time for fans or others, Federer goes the extra yard. As we hear the stories of the baseball steroid era this week, it might be good to note that Federer seems to be a decent human being. Let’s pray that he can continue to be an example for the rest of us.

One Day More…with Carolyn

bodyImageSo I have been blessed in these early days at Canisius with the gift of Carolyn Birner. In short, she’s a character and has been an institution at Campus Ministry for three decades. She was kind enough to delay her retirement to stay with my predecessor Lu Firestone, who served as the interim director while they searched for a permanent director (‘lil ol’ me!).

And then, as if that was not enough, Carolyn gave me the gift of a full month of being with me in the early going of this new job to make sure I got acclimated to the place. And she has indeed been gift to me. Dayenu!

Tomorrow is her last day here at Canisius and we will have a small celebration. After more than three decades of work she deserves a wonderful time of retirement with her family.

So thanks Carolyn, simply for being you. You have made my transition so much easier simply by being you. The students especially will miss you and I’m programming your phone to be on speed dial for the inevitable day that we need to know “What the heck do we do NOW?”

My new motto for the office is a simple one: WWCD. What would Carolyn do? And it will remind us to be warm, inviting and to always go the extra mile for the students here at Canisius, because that is what you have been for so many people who have passed through these doors. While it has only been one month, it has been a wonderful one filled with much love and laughter. As I did my daily examen over the course of the month, many times my moments of grace were of you.

So blessings, friend. And know that as we gather around the table here you are united with us at your table wherever you are.

For now, let’s just enjoy the moment. For tomorrow…you ride!

At 80, Jesuit Decides to Return to Lay State

An amazing decision by now former Jesuit Bert Thelen on why he decided to return to the lay state despite being nearly 80 and serving the church as a priest for a majority of his years.

“In plainer words, we need to end the world view that structures reality into higher and lower, superior and inferior, dominant and subordinate, which puts God over Humanity, humans over the rest of the world, men over women, the ordained over the laity. As Jesus commanded so succinctly, ‘Don’t Lord it over anyone … serve one another in love.’ As an institution, the Church is not even close to that idea; its leadership works through domination, control, and punishment. So, following my call to serve this One World requires me to stop benefiting from the privilege, security, and prestige ordination has given me. I am doing this primarily out of the necessity and consequence of my new call, but, secondarily, as a protest against the social injustices and sinful exclusions perpetrated by a patriarchal church that refuses to consider ordination for women and marriage for same- sex couples …”

I know many men who are priests from a variety of dioceses and religious orders who struggle with these same issues. Please continue to pray for them and for all of us who they serve.

Like an Old Teddy Bear

Jim Martin posted a fine reflection on facebook about the schmaltzy “Footprints” poem that has attracted so many. He writes:

The poem is (or poems are) frequently targeted in some more “sophisticated” spiritual circles for some good-natured, and not so good-natured, ribbing. It’s not Shakespeare or Dante of course, and perhaps the sheer ubiquity of the poem (on cards, posters, mugs, etc.) may have deadened some of its appeal. A darker motive for making light of the poem, though, is that it is popular, and surely, some more “advanced” thinkers believe, its popularity must mean that it is somehow not worthy of “serious” attention, or that it has little to teach us.

This is a common fallacy in some sophisticated spiritual circles. Such thinking makes the fatal mistake of forgetting that the Holy Spirit can be powerfully at work through a popular work of art. Indeed, its popularity can be put forth as an argument for its significance: Why else would it touch so many people respond to it? The Holy Spirit speaks through both “high” and “low” theology, and, besides, why do we need to make such distinctions at all? I’ll bet that the Beatitudes didn’t sound all that sophisticated either.

Agreed. Just because something is kinda schmaltzy doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily bad or even unsophisticated. Some can draw deep meaning in the simplest of things. My pastor, Fr Jack Ledwon often reads the Eucharistic Prayer for Children–because, as he says, “Sometimes the most profound things can only be captured in the simplest of ways.”

article-0-16092761000005DC-556_964x1274It calls to mind one of the favorite homilies I heard about awhile back. My buddy Fr. Jack Collins told me about it. He said “A priest gave this homily where he took out an old looking teddy bear. He said, ‘I’ve had this guy since I was a child. He’s old and half the stuffing is out of him and he’s missing an eye, but I still love him anyway. He’s my favorite, even though I’ve got a lot of new stuffed animals.”

“God loves us just like that. I’m old and worn out and I don’t see too well either. But God still loves me just as much as he always has.”

I could just feel my eyes welling up. It was a beautiful sentiment but also gave us much to consider.

How well do we love those closest to us? As we age and our relationships, especially those of us who are married, age–are we still able to love the same? Do we really take that commitment to love forever seriously?

Because God has made that same commitment to us.

So who is the old teddy bear in our lives? Find them today and hug the stuffing out of them, because God has been doing that with us for as long as we have been alive.

Amen.