Friday, May 24, 2013

To the Class of 2013


It's hard to believe that the first crop of freshmen I taught starting in 2009 graduated last night. At U of D Jesuit there's a tradition of having the "Senior All-Night Party" following graduation, a party that concludes with a prayer service. I believe they used the prayer I composed last year for the occasion but, at the invitation of some of the parents, I sent a letter giving my final "lesson" as their teacher. This is not to be confused with Abba's Advice for College which tended toward more practical advice.


My Dear Class of 2013,

This letter records both an end and a beginning. As the sun creeps over the horizon and you step out into the world newly-minted graduates, a significant chapter of your life comes to a conclusion. In a few moments, you will take yet another step on a journey toward adulthood shaped, I hope positively, during your time at U of D Jesuit. This ending is bittersweet for me as well, as your class began as freshmen in 2009, the same year I arrived for my three-year regency. I am sad that I am not able to be with you as you celebrate the milestone of your graduation but do be assured that you have never been far from my heart in my prayer.

The purpose of your education, contrary to our culture’s belief, has not been simply to get you into a good college. Your Jesuit education has aimed to shape your heart and your mind to wrestle with the big questions confronting the Church and the world today, questions demanding much from those serious enough to tackle them. As your journey into the future continues, please allow me to offer three words of wisdom.

First, live always from the heart. Never fear to look deep within and ask yourself what it is that you truly desire in this life. Our society will be quick to tell you what you should want, what you should be, what you should do. Yet, I am afraid, so much of what the world promises will never bring you true and lasting happiness. What you desire most, what stirs your heart and excites you…please, pay attention to this. The best advice my father ever gave me: whatever you do in life, love it enough to teach it. If you love something enough to share it with others, you’ll never have a day without joy.

Second, live in the Spirit. The God we have prayed to each day during the Examen is the God whose Spirit is alive in your heart. Be bold and courageous in following this Spirit, in following your heart, and your entire life will be an adventure of experiencing God’s call. Whether you become a doctor or a lawyer, a professional athlete or a teacher, an engineer or a Jesuit, a husband and a daddy, know that all is a gift from the Creator. Rejoice in the gift that is your life and make your whole life a thanksgiving in response to God’s friendship.

Third, and finally, do this practically. Being a follower of Jesus Christ, being an authentic Man for Others, is an all-contact sport. It is not something one does…it is what one is. Let your deeds show your character. Be men of prudence and wisdom, care always for the poor and the marginalized, and bring to others the spirit of love and brotherhood you have come to know here. Saint Ignatius reminds us that “Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” I challenge you to make your lives a deed of love.

Please know of my prayers as your journey into the future. It was a great joy and grace to have had a role in teaching you. For any time I failed to be the Jesuit or teacher you deserved, I extend my sincerest apology. For allowing me to have a part in your lives, I offer my heart’s deepest gratitude. Go forth and set the world on Fire for the greater honor and glory of God
.


With Brotherly Love,

Ryan “Abba” Duns, SJ

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spiritu, Corde, Practice

After Saint Ignatius had completed the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, he faced a task equally as daunting as its composition: communicating the document to the early Jesuits. This task he entrusted to Jeronimo Nadal who went from community to community, sharing and explicating the Constitutions as he went. Apparently a master teacher, Nadal developed a simple triad - the Latin spiritu, corde, practice - to explain how the Jesuits were to live out their mission: in the Spirit, from the heart, practically.

Spiritu: God's Spirit is active in the world, inviting ongoing, everyday response. Sometimes, I think, we are too quick to compartmentalize our spiritual lives as though the "Spirit" only mattered when we prayed or went to Church. For Ignatius, however, God's Spirit is at play within the world at all times and our lives, our entire selves, can be lived in response to this presence. Spirituality isn't something we have, as we might have a preference in wine, but rather is the very style of our lives. Life in the Spirit gives us to live a life of the Spirit: God's joyful presence in the world, more mighty than death, rejoicing in the light that conquers darkness.

Corde: If God's Spirit cannot be confined to a Church, if it is always at play in our world, we are summoned to make a total, heart-level, offering of ourselves. Better than any Tom-Tom or Garmin, the human heart is a natural GPS: God Positioning System. God's will stands not outside of us but, rather, within the very depths of our hearts. Living in the Spirit involves setting one's heart on what truly matters, it means that regardless of what we do in our lives - moms or dads, doctors or teachers, custodians or direct care workers, lay or ordained - the way we do it gives testimony to the power and glory of God.

Practice: God's tugging at the human heart calls forth the best of who we are and what we have to offer. This life is lived out practically, in the world. The Holy Father has recently said that there are no "part-time" Christians: it's something we do, something we practice! A few moments of quiet contemplation in the morning or before bed, small acts of kindness done quietly and without thought of recompense, an attitude of quiet patience, a willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others.

Recent articles, such as Russ Douthat's "All the Lonely People," call attention to the tragic consequences of personal and social disintegration. So much of our social identities are wrapped up in what we do or accomplish. When the external benchmarks are challenged or lost, one's sense of self-identity is threatened and eroded.

The threat of our age is one of disintegration and alienation. Thus it is that the wisdom of our ancestors calls out to us, inviting us to return not to a past age but, rather, to a Wisdom that remains ever fresh and new. The life of faith isn't a self-help program but a program of salvation, a way of being authentically human and fully alive because the center of our lives is not some thing or object but the One who gives life and invites us into the adventure of discipleship. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Residence

After some prayerful discernment, the men of Chabanel House (my current residence) have elected to change the name of our residence. 




Monday, May 20, 2013

A Class Act

My well-laid plans to take the train to New York on Saturday were scuttled on account of the calamitous derailment that took place in Connecticut on Friday. Without a car and scrambling to find a ride to the Putnam Feis, I was fortunate to catch a ride with the matriarch of Boston's Irish dancing scene, Rita O'Shea.

I thought I'd share this video from the Boston Globe. It's a short piece about Rita's involvement in Irish dancing and it captures, as well as anything I could ever write, why I love being involved in the world of Irish music and dance.

A lesson learned both as a high school teacher and as an Irish musician echoes what Rita says. That is, years from now students will hardly remember what grade they were given, what honor they received, what medal they won. They will remember, however, spending time with those who have loved them and supported them, those with whom they have laughed and and shared a significant part of their lives. I'm no stranger to criticizing the excesses of high school, or of Irish dancing, but I'd be the first to support any event bringing children and their parents together, any opportunity for a family to come together in a common endeavor.

What Lisa Chaplin says in the video, that it's rare to find people involved in something for 30, 40, or 50 years is true: it is rare. Our culture moves us from one fad to the next and, too often, we fail to put down deep roots. I think a lot of societal pressure pushes us to make sure kids are "well-rounded" but it seems that this often leads to shallowness. I'd rather find a person totally and passionately involved in one thing - music, art, sports, politics - than a milquetoast personality who dabbles in many without going too deep.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Notes on a Growing Scandal

"Mythology," literary theorist René Girard writes in The Scapegoat, "is the very best school in the training of silence." Myths, so considered, are stories told to keep concealed some truth; a myth can act as a dark blanket, wrapping up and hiding truth in its folds.

The myth gives us a sense of security, a sense of stability: in the early 1980's, the myth of GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) helped to make the burgeoning AIDS crisis a "gay issue" when, as we know all too well, it affected heterosexual and homosexual populations. In 2008, we saw the devastating result of the myth of the self-regulating market: misplaced confidence in the ability of the economy to achieve natural homeostasis blinded us to the catastrophic erosion of the market, leading to financial crisis.

Indeed, it seems that a certain mythology around the sexual abuse of the vulnerable has coalesced within the last thirty years. The "pedophile priest" has become a stock image, the butt of jokes and innuendo. While we all know clergy are not alone in having abusers in their midsts - doctors, lawyers, troop leaders, teachers, daycare workers all have been convicted - it remains remarkably easy to think of sexual abuse as a "Catholic" problem rather than seeing it as an enormously pernicious cultural problem.

Thus it is with great interest I have been following the unfolding narrative of abuse within the United States Military. The parallel to the sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the Catholic Church is uncanny: a culture of secrecy, the exploitation of power, a willingness to turn a "blind eye" to the indiscretions of a fellow soldier in the name of "brotherhood," greater concern for the institution's reputation than for the protection of an individual. A vow of silence binding involved parties together, a silence suffocating the voices of victims and perpetuating a culture of abuse.

As a society, we do ourselves a grave injustice if we allow ourselves to be seduced by the myth of sexual abuse as a problem of some other population. It is a deep and abiding cultural problem, a deeply troubling human problem, and until we begin to look hard at our culture, we will be continue to be enchanted by myths assuring us that it's a problem others have to face, but not us.


  • Myths acknowledge some sort of communal or cultural disturbance
  • There is an individual or group culpable for this disturbance
  • The culpable part is distinctive - something sets them apart from everyone else
  • The culprit behind the disorder needs to be expelled
  • Peace is restored to the community after the expulsion of the guilty party
If you've ever watched a group of children at play, particularly if they gang up against one of their own members, you can see this dynamic function. A kickball team is losing because of the fat kid so the team gangs up on him, expels him from the group, and finds a renewed esprit de corps, a revitalized morale, as a team. The team's identity is galvanized by expelling its vulnerable member, they become a team in the act of expelling a member from the team. 






Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Which Craft?

I just learned that this is "American Craft Beer Week." I didn't know such an observance existed but, then again, we live in a country where there apparently exists "Crochet Week" (2nd week of March), "Reading a Road Map Week" (1st week of April), and "Nude Recreation Week" (2nd week of July).

I don't observe any of the latter. I am not crafty, I have a GPS, and while "Nude Recreation" might sound like fun to you, it sounds like a recipe for a felony conviction and a profile on "To Catch a Predator" on Dateline.

That said, I'll be glad to observe Craft Beer Week.

I am a proud supporter and devotee of Great Lakes Brewing Co. located in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. My alma mater, Saint Ignatius High School, is next door to the brewery. When I was a student, legend held that in addition to a bowling alley in the Jesuit Residence there was also a direct line running underneath the football field connecting the JR to the Brewery.

Sadly, this turns out not to be true.

One can still dream, though.

I love Great Lakes Brewing - if you have never sampled their beer, I strongly recommend it. It's growing in its "beer footprint" and is available outside of Ohio. I very much look forward to going home this August, sitting out on the patio of the restaurant, and having a few pints of Dortmunder Gold with friends.

In honor of this week, allow me to offer the following video. I would give anything for them to have given the video a different title, but the content of the video is pretty funny and will hopefully redeem it.

GBW - STUFF BEER GEEKS SAY from GOOD BEER WEEK on Vimeo.






Monday, May 13, 2013

Musings from the Side of the Stage

Regular readers know that one of the most important, and cherished, elements of my life is my involvement with Irish music and dancing. If I'm not mistaken, I've now been playing Irish music for twenty-five years (starting on the tin whistle and progressing to the accordion a few years later). When I returned from studying abroad in 2000, I became very involved in playing for Irish dancing competitions (feiseanna) all over the country.

A feis is an Irish dancing competition where dancers compete with one another, dancing to live music in front of a certified adjudicator. In this it's like figure skating, gymnastics, or the Westminster Kennel Club: there's a unique subculture governed by its own rules with its own personalities.

So my "role" within the world of Irish dancing is to be one of the musicians who provides live music at the events. Sometimes I play for what we call the "grades" - these are the newer and less-experienced dancers. Very often one musician will provide music for multiple stages at once and the dancers come out, perform, and are judged relative to the other competitors. My job is to make sure that the dancers have the music they need to do their dances: when it's a "reel" competition, I play reels; when it's time for "jigs," I play jigs. At other times I am privileged to play for championship-level dancers. These dancers have larger stages on which to perform, do more technically demanding dances, and there tends to be a bit more formality involved. These competitions are judged by three adjudicators and one competition involves either two or three rounds of dancing.

This weekend, I had a wonderful time playing at the Queen City Feis (Cincinnati) and the Bluegrass Feis (Lexington). It was such a nice way to end my academic semester and enter into summer: I enjoyed playing for the dancers and had the opportunity to work with very fine adjudicators and musicians. These events are as much social as they are profesional: in addition to working together all day at the event, we socialize together in the evenings at various bars and restaurants.

Yesterday, while I was playing, it slowly dawned on me one of the major reasons I love playing for Irish dancers. It is not because I like the synthetic hair, the spray tan, the tendency to put rhinestones on any available surface, or the overabundance of body glitter that, no doubt, I have been inhaling for years and will almost certainly prove as carcinogenic as asbestos. No, I love playing because as I disappear, as I lose myself and dissolve into the background, it helps other to be their best selves. It's like that like in John's Gospel, where John the Baptist acknowledges "I must decrease" in order that Jesus "may increase." John set the stage and got the ball rolling for Jesus...he started the music, it fell to Jesus to perform the dance of salvation.

Being up on a stage, playing in front of a lot of people, can tempt toward egocentric behavior. Teachers, physicians, lawyers, musicians, clergy: any public professional be tempted to think oneself the center of attention. We can become so self-focused, so egocentric, that we forget that we entered into our professions to help others be who they are. We are at our best when we're totally heterocentric, when we do our best to get out of the way to let others be who they are able to be.

One special thing I saw yesterday, on Mother's Day, was how the various dancers related to their moms. While there were a few pouty kids, it really struck me how many dancers get off the stage and run to their mothers. The moms give hugs, give commendations or consolations as needed, and support the kid. Many of these moms have made great sacrifices on behalf of these dancers - hours of travel, financial support, inherent stresses associated with competing - but many of them were so happy and so proud to see their dancers on the stage. Good or bad, a future champion or someone who hasn't much future in the dancing, the parents were proud that their child got up on the stage.

The crowd shouldn't notice the musician, really. We need to dissolve in order that the dancer can find himself or herself caught up in the music and perform. My practice meets their practice in order that they shine...my effort to conceal myself in the music lets the dancer take the stage totally.

I write this and cannot help but think that this is my notion of priesthood. Just two years from my ordination, it's not about me putting on a show, about making something happen. My Jesuit training and my musical training converge: I think I'll be my best when I am noticed least, when I can get out of the way so that those who approach the Lord's Table are treated, not to a dose of Duns, but to an encounter with the Risen One, the Lord of the Dance.

My image of the Kingdom of God as, for years, been a huge Irish dancing party (a ceili) where I get to be a member of the band. I'm not the star musician by any stretch, but my music joins with others who are conducted by the leader of the band who makes even our sour notes to sound pure. As our music interweaves, it flows onto the floor and draws even the wallflowers into the dance. The pure music doesn't force anyone to dance....but its life and joy are hard to resist. Even the cynical and fearful hearts melt in its presence, surrendering old inhibitions and entering a dance they did not start but one in which they find themselves increasing in joy and laughter. Tune follows tune follows tune and no one tires of playing and no one considers stopping the dance for, in this moment, we have tasted the abundance of life and celebrate it totally and eternally.

My shoulders are a bit sore this morning - two days of playing is rough! - but I woke up with a joyful heart. This is going to be a busy summer and a lot of music is yet to be played. Not every feis will prove easy or ideal but, with grace and patience, each one can be an opportunity to decrease that others may increase, to learn how to put my practice to the service of others. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

To Hand on to Others

Last night I began to read Denys Turner's new book Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait. The first chapter, where Turner traces a brief biographical sketch of Aquinas, seeks to draw attention to a particularly remarkable feature of Aquinas's style of teaching. Aquinas, Turner suggests, sought always to disappear behind his teaching, to dissolve and become invisible so as not to stand in the way of the light he tried to share. His goal as a teacher was simply contemplata aliis tradere - to hand on to others the fruits of his contemplation.

I have long felt a strong tie between my own experiences as a teacher with my experiences as an Irish musician, particularly as a musician playing for Irish dancers. In both cases, my primary function is to dissolve in some way, to get out of the way so that the student, or dancer, can encounter the material, or melody, in an authentic way. A successful class session isn't one where students walk away saying, "Wow! I learned Mr. ____ really well today," but, rather, "Wow! I really thought ________ was an interesting idea." Likewise, in an ideal setting, the dancer should forget who is playing and surrender to the music in order to dance as best as possible.

I share this because I think Aquinas's desire contemplata aliis tradere stands in great tension with our own society. We practice, we rehearse, we prepare in order that we get noticed. Isn't the measure of success in our society how well we are regarded, how well thought of we are? To follow the path set forth by Aquinas involves diminishing and dissolving, practicing in order to disappear, working hard to be hardly noticed.

I think it worthwhile to ponder how each of us is being summoned to hand on to others what we have received. What are we called to share and how are we to share it? As I start the summer feis season tomorrow (two feiseanna in the Mid-American region), these are questions I ponder. I practice many hours in order that the dancers' practice pays off; my success isn't measure by the kudos I receive but with how well they are able to dance. The same holds true for teachers' class preparation: the hours spent planning pays off only in the hearts and minds of the students. What can seem tedious and thankless, one has need to realize, is engaged not for any other reward than the gift of sharing what one loves with others.

In this we hear the strains of vocational discernment: what have I been given and how am I being called to share it? If my heart is on fire with passion, how might I enkindle similar passions in the hearts of others?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Body Language

A few days ago, I went to the mall with a friend who seemed to spend an ETERNITY in one of the stores. While she shopped, I sat on a mall bench and people-watched.

I stretched out, coffee in hand, and watched as people moved by. Some never looked up, wholly engrossed in their smart-phones. Some were apparently deaf to mall sounds: they had their ear buds in, listening to their iPods rather than the piped-in mall music. Young and old, singles and couples, men and women went about their business.

One sight in particular caught my attention. A young mother pushing a stroller with a little boy in it, probably around 12 months of age. Mom was attentive to highlighting the kid's cute quotient, dressing him in denim overalls and a red polo shirt. The little boy was bubbly and bright, smiling as he played with a stuffed dog in his lap. Mom queued up in the line at Dunkin' Donuts, right behind an older African-American woman. The woman turned, smiled politely at the mother, and then cast her eyes down toward the little boy. Her face lit up.

I watched as the woman bent down and started to talk to the little boy. She was clearly experienced with little kids. She played with the plush dog and tussled the boys hair. Mom didn't seem to mind in the slightest and, as they advanced in the slow-moving line, they continued talking. Then the old woman asked the mother a question, the mother nodded her assent, and the woman bent over and picked the little boy up out of the stroller. In one hand he held the dog and, with the other, he played with the woman's free hand. He giggled and wriggled about, his smile exceeded only by the woman's.

They advanced another few steps in line and, just before it was her turn to order, she returned the boy to the stroller. She purchased her beverage, said goodbye to the mother and child, and walked over to the bench next to the one I was sitting upon. The largest smile beamed from her face. I grinned at her and said, "That was really lovely to see." Her smile widened and said, "Little ones can't be told they are loved. They have to feel the love...babies just have to be held."

In our digital age, I think it's easy to reduce all forms of communication to text. Heck, you're reading my blog: you don't see my facial expression or hear my voice, you only read the text before you and infer from it how I'm feeling. We live in a sea of digital text - emails, texts, tweets, Facebook posts - each attempting to express how we feel. I wonder, though, how much we're missing out on because we limit communication to speech, to words. Too often do we neglect the importance of body language or, even, the language spoken only by the body: a held hand, a hug, a kiss.

"Communication," John Macmurray writes, "is for all human beings a fact before it becomes an act." Before we ever said, "Feed me," we were fed; before ever said, "Hold me," we were held. We felt love, we "knew" love, not in words but in deeds, in embodied action. Yet, at some point in our development, it seems that we move away from "feeling" love and reduce it to "saying" it only through words and greeting cards.

Now, I'm not suggesting going out and plucking children from strollers: I suspect that's a felony! But I would say that babies aren't the only ones out there who need to feel love. Saint Ignatius counsels, "Love is shown more in deeds than in words." If the opportunity presents itself, perhaps each of us can seize a moment to show our love, rather than tell of it, to someone who needs it.


Saturday, May 04, 2013

Real and Unreal Religion

During my reading this morning, I came upon a distinction between "real" and "unreal" religions made by the Scottish philosopher John Macmurry (1891-1976). The maxim of unreal religion, he writes, runs accordingly:
Fear not; trust in God and He will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you. 
The maxim of real religion, as you might expect, rejects this. Instead, real religion's maxim runs:
Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of. 
So expressed, it is hard to ignore that real religion has a bit of a bite to it, a certain degree of pessimism. If Christianity is a real religion, then its engagement with the world must be defined not by fear but with courage and love.

Real religion ought to make us uncomfortable. It should plague our hearts a bit, making us restless, nagging us with a sense that "there's still so much yet to be done." It should drive us out into the world to bring God's Good News to a world very much in need of it. What's this Good News, this Gospel? With Karl Rahner, might we not say that the Good News reminds us
Nothing else than that the one who is a Christian precisely does not have the ultimate say in one's own existence, but rather that all solutions, all advances in knowledge and free action, are all along already transcended by the Absolute Mystery, that this Mystery itself wills to concern itself in some way with us, that it has addressed itself to us as the ultimate definitive word of our existence in Jesus on the Cross, the crucified and risen Lord. 
When it functions as a real religion, Christianity does not pacify us anesthetize us to the pain of the world. The central image of the Christian religion - the Crucified yet Risen Lord - confronts us with the reality of suffering in the world. Yet Christian faith assures us that we are not defined by the power of death but of life, not by evil but by good. One doesn't stand as a Christian because it is easy, or because it makes one's life simple, but because in the Gospel one hears the truth of what it means to be a human being and finds the courage therein to stand within a community of believers.

Compare this to the unreal religion offered by society - a religion based on superficial beauty, wealth, or power - lives always in fear of growing old and ugly, becoming poor, becoming powerless. How easy it is to succumb to this egocentric religion, one focused wholly on oneself and one's own well-being. The "Cult of Me" erects a temple in which there is one seat, reserved for me alone. How lonely, how desolate, to make oneself into a beautiful building that has no doors to the outside world!


Friday, May 03, 2013

A Thought on Discernment

The other day, I received an email message asking for advice on discernment. The gist of the question can be stated pretty easily:
How does one discern the nature of a spiritual experience? That is, does one merely take the experience 'on faith' or should one reflect on whether it is some sort of psychological coping mechanism? 
I suspect many of us have had the experience of a profound spiritual awakening and a sense of calling, a new-found resolve, a new vigor. In the wake of this experience, after time has passed and our ardor has cooled a bit, we're left wondering: did I feel this at all or did I manufacture it? Is this a movement of the Spirit or is it an early sign of psychosis?

Without a doubt, I'm far from a spiritual guru. Yet I do know something of discernment and I tried my best to share with my correspondent something that might help him. The slightly edited message is as follows:

Dear _______,
You're raising the question each spiritual seeker must confront: is what I am feeling authentic or auto-generated? Is this an address from the Other who summons me or is it some sort of coping mechanism I am subconsciously producing from the heart of my psyche, some unseen depth working to delude, rather than illuminate, me? 
My advice is going to be deceptively simple. And it's this: are you feeling more whole, more alive, more fully you? Within the Ignatian spiritual tradition, the fundamental impulse is to discern whether something brings you to greater life. Let me elaborate briefly.
When we look at our lives, we can point to times when we've felt free and joyful and, sadly, times when we've felt shut-in or closed down. Things that we sometimes think as momentarily pleasurable - pick your poison here! - never satisfy us fully, leaving us darker and desolate. Yet, at other times, we hit a groove, a "flow," when we know we're firing on all cylinders and are, at that moment, most fully who we are capable of being. Those are moments of grace, moments of being "Fully alive." 
So, what you'll want to sit with is simply: are you experiencing yourself fully alive? Even if it scares you - and fullness of life can be overwhelming - do you feel enlivened? Christians believe in a life-giving God, a God of the Resurrection who conquers death. This is a God whose friendship in Jesus Christ is effervescent. If you are feeling more alive, more grounded, more as though your center is located not in your own self-interest but in the interest of the Kingdom of God...I'd trust that. Don't make any snap decisions, but be aware of what you're feeling.
There's no incantation, no rune, able to read the shape of the human heart. There is only patient trust and faith that God will work with whatever we offer up for divine guidance. That you are asking the ultimate questions, that you are even willing to open your heart is an act of vulnerability and grace. Jesus Christ, the crucified yet Risen One, does not tell us that discipleship is easy. He tells us, through the resurrection, that discipleship is the way to follow the one who is truly human. Trust in this, keep your heart open, and prepare yourself for a great adventure. As a wise man once said, "You can't be a friend of Jesus and an enemy of the Cross." Hold true to this and you will hold to the peace of friendship with the Lord who gives love and life. 


This is not, please let me say, meant in any way to supplant or replace the need for a good spiritual director or your own prayer. What I've shared is no formula; it is, rather, a style of praying through one's experiences. The Christian believer must always return to the central confession of faith, that God is as Jesus reveals God to be. Jesus as he taught. Jesus as he accepted death. Jesus as the forgiving victim who brought peace, not vengeance, from the grave. Jesus who sends us us the Spirit that we might grow more alive within him.